Translator: Geoffrey Brock
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Secker & Warburg; Airport / Export Ed edition (6 Jun 2005)
This is about memory.
The PoV character (and the PoV is relentlessly first person, anything else would betray our internal view of him) is an elderly antiquarian bookseller, Yambi, who has woken up from a stroke remembering nothing of his life. He remembers everything about bookselling, he remembers everything he's learnt about history, but his own life? His friends and family? Poof!
And so his quest becomes that of attempting to recover that memory. Perhaps, by immersing himself in the books and artefacts of his childhood home, the sheer intensity of potential recollection will break through the dam and bring it all back again.
In the meantime, Eco brings an illustrated memoir of what it was like to be a boy growing up through the confusion of World War II in Italy, the comics and superhero magazines, the newspapers, the cigarette cards, the toys and books. (The cover just contains some of the details from inside.) This book is so full of reproductions of what he's talking about that having read this, I almost have a false memory of being a young Italian in that era too. It's also a love story, though that's not immediately obvious. And for a period, it's an exciting war story.
I loved it. A book for sipping rather than quaffing.