First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
In this fascinating, abundant new novel from the incomparable Eco, Yambo, a rare-book dealer, has suffered a bizarre form of memory loss. He can remember every book he has ever read but nothing about his own life. IN an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to his old family home and searches through the boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums and diaries kept in the attic. And so Yambo relives his youth: Mussolini, Catholic education, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Fred Astaire. His memories run wild, and life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel Yambo struggles through the frames to capture one simple, innocent image, that of his first love.
We are done with another work week! It’s the weekend! I hope you ended the workweek with a bang and that you’re going into the weekend with a big smile painted on your face. Otherwise, I hope you get to use the weekend to wash away those anxieties. Oh, today is the first Friday of June. Wow. We are nearly midway through 2022. Things are certainly starting to look up. More than two years after COVID19 has reset our fast-paced life, we are slowly recovering and getting back into the groove. Offline concerts are back in business. Sports stadiums are filled to the brim. The streets, once resonating with silence and hushed tones are now teeming with activities. Vestiges of the pandemic still persist. People are still wearing masks because COVID19 remains a threat even though the world has started to adjust to its presence and its threat. Still, I hope that it gets completely eradicated. Only time will tell.
But before I can dive into the weekends, let me close this past work week with a new First Impression Friday update. In May, I read works of European literature that took me to different parts of the continent, from Italy to Sweden to the Czech Republic to the Balkan Peninsula. It was a smorgasbord, a feast that made sure that my palate never runs out of different literary flavors. The experience, as expected, was scintillating. There were moments when it got perplexing but it was still a magnificent experience. After all, it is these uncertainties that make literature interesting. Because of this, I am going to extend my foray into European literature in June. To make the journey more interesting, I have been alternating new-to-me writers and not-so-new-to-me writers. Yesterday, I finished my first novel by French writer Michel Houellebecq, and now I am reading the work of a familiar writer.
Italian writer Umberto Eco first caught my attention with his debut novel, The Name of the Rose. The moment I encountered the book, I knew I have to read it. I read it and loved it; it was, however, my second novel by Eco, after Baudolino. However, it has been nearly five years since I read a novel by the famed semiotician and historian. The novel started with images of fogs, which was a recurring theme. The novel’s main narrator and character, Giambattista Bodoni, found himself in a hospital after figuring in an accident. While he was mostly unscathed, at least physically, there seemed to be some adverse impact on his brain. He forgot who he was. His semantic memory was still working. He knows his history and basic knowledge. His episodic memory, on the other hand, was severely damaged by the accident.
Thankfully, the impact on his episodic memory was temporary, at least that was what his doctor said. In the meantime, he had to work out the rest of his memory and history. Assisting him was his wife Paola. As expected, Giancarlo, or Yambo for short, had no recollection of getting married to Paola. He also didn’t know they had children and grandchildren. He had no inkling as to who they are but he had to act like a grandfather, whatever being a grandfather entailed; he also had no clear idea. He had several books; he knew a lot but he didn’t know he owned a lot of books. But still, Yambo felt the persistent presence of fog on his mind and memory; it loomed largely. Outside this fog, he was like a fish out of the water.
I haven’t gotten far into the story but there are several questions that are in want of an answer, answers that I hope will be provided as the story progressed. One that struck me at the onset was the idea that Yambo was being led into a trap, that it was all an illusion or an elaborate ploy, perhaps a well-orchestrated conspiracy even. What others wanted to extract from him provided another layer of mystery, especially that the accident he figured in was never elucidated, yet. The other question that popped out to my mind was one thing that Paola mentioned when Yambo asked her if he was a good husband. Her answer was vague, alluding to infidelities. This brings up another question. Who is Queen Loana? More questions surfaced when Yambo got reintroduced to Sibilla, his assistant at the antiquarian bookstore he ran.
The book is rather lengthy but the writing flowed; Eco has that uncanny ability to string together words that flowed cohesively. There are several questions that need to be unraveled; the tenterhook is propelling me forward. I want these questions to be answered and I hope the book won’t disappoint. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading and take care!