Dan Friedman

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Umberto Eco on Conspiracies and Novels

In Books, Culture, Interviews, Visual Media on November 24, 2011 at 3:52 am

I couldn’t get that unlit cigar out of my mind. I was in congenial conversation with someone I deeply admired but all I could think of was that mysterious cylinder of tobacco. As he spoke, it was all I could do to concentrate, but unraveling the plot depended upon it; demystifying “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” depended upon it.

Umberto Eco’s latest novel, “The Prague Cemetery,” is a historical novel about a fictitious Captain Simonini who, in recounting his bizarre life, explains how he came to write what we now know as “The Protocols.” Populated by historical characters including, in passing, a M. Froïde from Vienna during his Paris sojourn, the novel covers the expanse of fin-de-siecle Europe. It was a time when, as Eco commented in the elevator to his hotel room, everything that we use now was invented, with the exception of the airplane which had to wait another two years.

I sat down with Eco and a video camera the day before his book was released to try to look past the cigar and find out why he wrote this novel — why now — and whether there was any link between Simonini’s virulent anti-Semitism and his oft-detailed gustatory delight.

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Doctor Who Is Living on ‘Borrowed Time’

In Books, Comedy, Culture, Television on November 24, 2011 at 3:46 am

Naomi Alderman is a regular writer for the Guardian newspaper in Britain, a Sami Rohr Prize finalist and, as of this past summer, the first Jewish woman to publish an official novel about Doctor Who, an eccentric British-sounding alien who travels the universe in his time machine — the “TARDIS.” Nearly 50 years old, the cult science fiction show is currently being lovingly lampooned by hit sitcom, “Community,” as “Inspector Spacetime.” I spoke to her about her relation to the last remaining Time Lord.