Umberto Eco On the Historical Dan Brown


Have you read The Da Vinci Code?


Yes, I am guilty of that too.


That novel seems like a bizarre little offshoot of Foucault’s Pendulum.


The author, Dan Brown, is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum! I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinationsthe world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.

(From an interview with Umberto Eco in latest edition of The Paris Review. H/T: Paideia.)


19 responses to “Umberto Eco On the Historical Dan Brown

  1. thanks for this. I am a big fan of Umberto Eco, and Foucault’s P is my favourite. But I have never read Dan Brown.


  2. I love Umberto Eco. It should also be pointed out that in one article on ‘Da Vinci Code’ he pointed out that he has begun referring anyone who asks him about the book to the Opus Dei website. Although Eco is an agnostic, he says that everything Opus Dei says about Dan Brown is correct.

    And even before I ever came across his comments I was thinking, ‘This “Da Vinci Code” is exactly the sort of thing Eco made fun of in “Foucault’s Pendulum”!’


  3. Juhem> I guess so! Which demonstrates, I think, the genius of Eco: he was able to pull off writing a painfully crappy novels, with flat characters, mediocre plot, etc., as the full-fledged work of one of his characters! Wow! ;-)

    Doug> Thanks! I've been laughing all weekend. This was so good! Oh, and his comments about poetry and adolescence are priceless!

    Suzanne> Well, I'd stick to Eco and altogether spurn Brown–if you like well-written literature, that is! ;-)

    Aaron> I have not yet read Foucault’s Pendulum, but now I will have to! I’ve been making fun of Dan Brown’s literary pretensions for some time, but there’s no use doing it on my own terms when Umberto Eco already indicted his kind, and undoubtedly did it better. ;-)


  4. Foucault’s Pengulum is fantastic! It’s one of my favorite novels. This makes me want to read it again.

    Eco is of a different, superior species of writer to that of Brown. In comparison with Eco, Brown is no writer at all, one of the illitterati.


  5. Kevin> If I hadn't ordered a copy of it already, your recommendation alone would suffice to do so! I can't wait to read it.

    And Brown is no writer at all, one of the illiterati (which isn’t the same as the illuminati, though people who believe in the latter are usually counted among the former), not only in comparison with Eco, but indeed in comparison with any author! The revulsion his book causes me is not theological, historical, etc., but literary.


  6. Well, I must agree with you about Brown’s status as an illiterati but I compare TDC with a bad Keanu Reeves movie (is there any other kind?) or a car crash, for some reason you can’t stop watching.

    In other news, I resent you calling me “traitor” in my own blog. BTW I wanna talk to you, when do you have appointments available?


  7. Daniel> Yes, thanks so much for passing on the link!

    Juhem> You are oh-so-right! Can't… look… away…

    And resent it all you want; it's what you get for your unspeakable actions. Incidentally, you have to fix your RSS feed–it still comes up under the "Calvin Coolidge" name when one subscribes to it. As for the "appointments" bit, I won't even dignify that with an answer. ;-)


  8. Illitterati, Illuminati, blah, blah, blah.

    I’ve not tainted my brain pan with Dan Brown’s drivel. Nor shall I.

    But for a season or two I was absolutely convinced (Lord have mercy!) that nearly every person in the country was a slack-jawed mouth-breathing idiot, as they all read that book.


  9. Did you not read Geoff Pullum’s excellent posts on Dan Brown on Language Log? Too funny. Better than reading the book, by all accounts.


  10. Juhem> It looks fixed to me too.

    Kevin> Please don't taint yourself! Your mind is too beautiful a thing to waste. I, on the other hand, have been corrupting my mind with Cable TV from a young age, and so I can thumb through a dreadful book every so often. I don't ever appear to be slack-jawed or mouth-breathing, however. ;-)

    Sue> I did NOT! Thanks for alerting me to this. Incidentally, I discovered Language Log yesterday (!), so I'm running over there to look this up RIGHT NOW.


  11. So I followed Sue’s suggestion and started reading Geoff Pullum’s Dan Brown posts. My favourite line so far: ‘In short, to call this novel formulaic is an insult to the beauty and diversity of formulae.’


  12. In my personal opinion, Foucault’s Pendulum is the greatest novel ever written, even better than The Name of the Rose. And, yes, Dan Brown should be paying Eco royalties on The Da Vinci Code.

    You have a fantastic blog. I’m glad I came across it. I will link to it from my blog if you don’t mind. Keep up the great work.


  13. Many, many thanks for the kind words, Peter! And thanks also for confirming what I’ve heard here about FP — I have ordered a copy, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it!


  14. Having read Brown and Eco, I am of the opinion that when Eco calls Brown “one of my creatures” from Foucault’s Pendulum, he is, in an erudite way – accusing Brown of plagiarism. His comment attacks Brown in two ways: first, he denies the plausibility of the Da Vinci Code ideas, and second, he calls the author a quack for perpetuating them. Ouch! Eco is the better historian, but sadly, Brown is the better novelist. Perhaps Eco realizes this and resents it. Name of the Rose never sold 100 million copies or whatever.


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