#BookReview ‘Numero Zero’ by Umberto Eco. Satire, conspiracy, politics, media… although not sure it’s a novel.

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco. Kindle Cover
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco. Kindle Cover

Title:   Numero Zero
Author:   Umberto Eco
ISBN:   0544635086

ISBN13:  978-0544635081
Published:  3rd November 2015
Pages:  208
Genre:  
Satire, Thriller and Suspense/Conspiracy/Politics

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco. Satire, conspiracy, politics, media… although not sure it’s a novel.

Thanks to Net Galley and to Vintage Digital for offering me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read some of the reviews by a number of readers who have followed Eco’s literary career. All seem to agree that this book cannot compare to some of the other novels he’s written, although some like it nonetheless, whilst others are disparaging of it.

For me, Umberto Eco is a writer who’s always been on my bucket list but never quite made it (or perhaps I read The Name of the Rose translated to Spanish many years back, but as I don’t remember it, I’ll assume I didn’t). When I saw this opportunity I decided not to miss it.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Numero Zero is quite different from anything I had imagined.

The beginning of the book is very intriguing, and it presents a writer/translator (Colonna) who swiftly explains his current situation. He is convinced that somebody has entered his house and he is in fear for his life.

Following this introduction to the main character, Colonna goes back to describe how he got there. The background to his current situation is what forms most of the novel, and we only return to the original point very late in the book (when there are only a few pages left).

Colonna describes himself as a loser and he has accepted a very strange job: to record the memoirs of a man who is setting up a newspaper, Domani. Only the newspaper will never get published, and the whole project is a way of manipulating contacts, allies and enemies by a third interested party.

There are descriptions of the reporters, a motley crew, fairly quirky, but none particularly talented or known. The ones we get to know more about are Bragaddocio, who’s always investigating some conspiracy or other (eventually coming to the conclusion that it is all part of a single huge conspiracy, involving Mussolini, the Vatican, the CIA, European governments…), and the only woman, Maia, who has a very special personality, but seems the only one with some sense of ethics and morals. By a strange process of osmosis, Colonna and Maia end up in a relationship, the one bright and hopeful spot of the whole novel, however weird the coupling seems.

Rather than well-developed characters and situations, Numero Zero seems an exercise in exposing current society (although the story is set in 1992), the press, media, politics… and their lack of substance. Also the lack of interest in serious stories by the population at large, and our collective poor memory.  As a satire I enjoyed it enormously, and although most of the characters experience no change (we don’t get too attached to them either, as they seem to be mostly just two-dimensional beings representing a single point of view), I thought Maia becomes more realistic, cynical and enlightened by the end of the book. And I found Colonna’s final reflection about Italy hilarious. (No offence to Italy. I think all the countries are going the same way if not there already. I’m Spanish and I definitely had to nod).

I agree with many of the comments, which note that the disquisitions and tirades of Bragaddocio are relentless, but they reflect a paranoid character (and perhaps, although he accuses Maia of being autistic, there is more than a bit of obsessiveness in his personality); the comments about the newspaper, how to write articles, and the press I found illuminating (yes, and funny), and overall I enjoyed the book, although as I said, it’s not my idea of a novel.

So I find myself in a similar situation to when I reviewed Satin Island. I enjoyed it (not as much as Satin Island, but it made me laugh more than once), but it is a novel that’s perhaps not a novel, with not very well developed characters, and an anecdote at its heart rather than a plot. There you are. You decide if you want to read it or not. Ah, and it’s short.

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Readability: 3.5/5
Recommended: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Numero Zero Hardback Cover (I like this one!)
Numero Zero Hardback Cover (I like this one!)

 

Buy it at:  
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $ 14.95 http://www.amazon.com/Numero-Zero-Umberto-Eco/dp/0544811836/

Hardback: $19.14 http://www.amazon.com/Numero-Zero-Umberto-Eco/dp/0544635086/

Kindle: $15.13 http://www.amazon.com/Numero-Zero-Umberto-Eco-ebook/dp/B0110ONP24/

Audio:  $ 17.72 http://www.amazon.com/Numero-Zero/dp/B016QTSTCY/

  Thanks for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK if you fancy it!

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com

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18 thoughts on “#BookReview ‘Numero Zero’ by Umberto Eco. Satire, conspiracy, politics, media… although not sure it’s a novel.”

  1. Olga you obviously didn’t read “The Name of the Rose” or you would have remembered it. It’s the most complex demanding book imaginable. Having seen the fine movie, I bought my paperback copy in England in 1984. But the book is much more than the film, much more than a series of murders in a medieval Benedictine monastery. I made five attempts to read it over the years and failed; it seemed over my head. But the book stayed with me as I traveled, always there watching me, waiting. Finally this summer I decided to tackle it no matter what. I’m now three quarters into it. But without the internet and search engines such as Google to discover for example who Fra Dolcino was, to understand the great heretical movements, and the great debates within the Catholic Church, I would never have been able to do it. I’ll finish it soon. And when i do I’ll celebrate like a Himalayan mountaineer having climbed K2 and descended safely. I’ll be happy to have done it. And put it back on it’s shelf. Not for everyone.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Tony. Congratulations on sticking with it. That’s what I gather from what I’ve read, too. I recall everybody was talking about it at the time, but like with many books everybody talks about, that doesn’t mean they have read them. I know Eco is a complicated (I hesitate to call him difficult, although I know he uses many references and it’s not an easy read by any standards). One of the reviews of the book I read was by a lady who said her husband was disappointed with the book, but in her case, who’d always found Eco’s books too difficult, she thought this one was much more accessible. Not a lot of people bother with books that require work these days, so all the credit to you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Olga. Difficult is perhaps a poor choice of word. I believe challenging is more appropriate. Eco demands much of his readers. Reading the “the Rose” is definitely a good, healthy workout, an accomplishment. I know I’ll feel better for doing it. I was thinking how convenient the internet search engines are. Without them it’s a trip to the library to use encyclopedias. Perhaps I’ll try “Numero Zero.”

        Like

    1. Happy Monday, Christoph. Net Galley is a good place to be up-to-date on publishing novelties (they also feature some indies, but far less, as there is a price to pay to be featured and from what I’ve seen it works out much better for publishers that can buy many spots at the same time) although it makes it even more difficult to keep the TBR list under control. Sometimes I just close their newsletters without reading them because I don’t dare to add any more books to my list. Of course, not everybody uses them (and some of the books are only available to readers in certain places and not others) Do have a great week!:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm. That is a very interesting review, Olga. You make me think of the dystopian satire I threaten to write about… the place that requires 40 hours from each of my weeks. 😉 But I don’t write it, because spending 40 hours a week there is more than enough. Ha!
    Wishing you a very merry Christmas, and a perfect new year. Mega hugs

    Like

    1. Thanks Teagan. I’m sure the time will come to write it (once you’ve moved out of there). I’m sure some people will hate this book, but perhaps if you have a bit of a special sense of humor and are interested in publishing, it has more appeal.
      Have a fabulous time. As long as next year is a bit better than the last two it would be OK with me. (I read an article yesterday that insisted the global economic system would collapse in a few days so… )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read In the Name of the Rose twice and enjoyed it each time; it was indeed challenging. I have attempted reading two of his subsequent books and have not finished them. So I was interested to read your review. I’m not sure I would tackle this one- it sounds significantly less rich than INR.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Florence. This one is not a hard read but might be disappointing depending on the expectations. Although, of course he has a right to write whatever he likes, for sure. Perhaps he’s thought it’s time for something quite different. Ah, loved your tree. Have a great Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

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