Title: Foucault’s Pendulum
Author: Umberto Eco, translated from Italian by William Weaver
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 1997, 642 pages
Colonel Ardenti: “Gentlemen, I will now show you this text. Forgive me for using a photocopy. It’s not distrust. I don’t want to subject the original to further wear.”
“No,” Belbo said. “I hate that. Let’s see your original copy.”
“But Ingolf’s copy wasn’t the original,” I said. “The parchment was the original.”
“Casaubon, when originals no longer exist, the last copy is the original.”
“But Ingolf may have made errors in transcription.”
“You don’t know that he did. Whereas I know Ingolf’s transcription is true, because I see no way the truth could be otherwise. Therefore Ingolf’s copy is the original. Do we agree on this point, or do we sit and split hairs?”
As people we are all copies of one another. Some call it inspiration, others call it imitation. Is there originality? Perhaps it is banal to even seek such a concept but since young, I’ve strove for it. Thinking back, I realised I never succeeded. I only managed to copy the coolest person in our class – no more. And became a simulacra of him (am I abusing the term? I cannot remember). I’ve merged his characteristics with other pop idols. Thinking back, it is only upon adulthood, perhaps upon receiving a job, that I’ve come into my own. Granted, I still take the best characteristics of others (what was it that Confucius said about taking the best points from your friends?) but I’ve melted them down and reforged the sword.
Another quote from our protagonist:
“But most of this stuff”, I aruged, “repeats things you can find on any station newsstand. Even published authors copy from one another, and cite one another as authorities, and all base their proofs on a sentence of Iamblicus, so to speak.”
The book so reminds me of my ache for the quest of knowledge, to fill the empty vessel that is me. I am afraid of old age. I don’t want to give up my autonomy of all my senses, my bodily functions., of my knowledge. Senility…
Even as I flip the yellowed pages, the book a hand-me-down from a literature professor to her students, I realise a common denominator of all things, of all resources in the world: Time.
Everything in the world requires Time: money yet to be earned, gold yet to be mined, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, jobs, knowledge, pleasure, hate, feelings. Only with Time can these events occur. Sadly we’ve limited ourselves to twenty-fours a day. And out of those twenty-four, we willingly give up eight to ten hours for work, another eight to ten for sleep. And what do we have left?
Belbo: “Suppose the automobile existed only to serve as the metaphor of creation? And we mustn’t confine ourselves to the exterior, or to the surface reality of the dashboard; we must learn to see what only the Maker sees, what lies beneath. What lies beneath and what lies above. It is the Tree of the Sefirot.”
After two or three sittings, I am finally done with the book. In the end, Dr Wagner’s words for Causabon sums up an angle of the book’s narrative:
Monsieur, vous êtes fou.
N.B.: This is a sandbox for my thoughts that arise from my reading of Foucault’s Pendulum. It will be continually bumped up as my thoughts trace through the sands.