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Umberto Eco
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The Island Of The Day Before
hard cover
489 pages
One of Umberto Eco's masterpieces, this novel at first glance deals with the story of a narrator who has come into possession of a manuscript written in the 1640s by Roberto della Griva, a man shipwrecked on an island slowly going mental.

Roberto is basically an everyman, but one who's reasonably educated and privileged, used to weave an entertaining story of how such a 17th century man would understand and explore the world. As ever with Umberto Eco's books there's much more to this tale than meets the eye. The novel is a wealth of marvelous writing and thinking, beautifully constructed and intellectually challenging and a vehicle of Eco's stunning writing, insights and scholarship.

Roberto's letters to his lady love, Lilia and other notes and entries are the base on which the story is build. His obsession with his imaginary evil brother and the woman he loves, Lady Lilia in Paris, who doesn't take him seriously in the slightest are the main subjects of his letters. Of course she never receives these letters, but somehow Roberto's opus survives and ends up in the hands of our narrator some 450 years later.

It turns out Robert mission was to discover the secret on how to calculate and measure longitudes. His ship and all aboard save himself were destroyed by a storm. He survived by strapping himself to a door, and bumped into a mysteriously abandoned Dutch ship, anchored between an island and a continent and a mere swim to either. Unfortunately Roberto can't swim...

When he starts exploring the ship he's stranded on he stumbles accros a Jesuit priest, Father Caspar Wanderdrossel. Together they muse about how to resolve the longitude issue and on how to get of their ship and escape. During on of their attempts the priest dissapears never to be seen again..

Roberto continues to try and escape by teaching himself how to swim, whilst inventing ever more elaborate stories about his evil imaginary brother..

Very elaborate novel with many layers and hidden meaning, written with a certain amount of cheeck. Not exactly an easy read but certainly rewarding if one's persistant..
8/10
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