yellow rose

Picture by Sudarshan V on Flickr

The Internet is right when it claims that George Martin must be directing this 2016, considering the brutal way it’s depriving us of the talent of the masters: David Bowie, Harper Lee, and now Umberto Eco.

I will focus on these last two (my musical education is not enough to allow me to competently discuss Bowie’s genius) with a quick comparison of two of their most famous works – To Kill a Mockingbird and The Name of the Rose: two very different novels, which nonetheless share a layered structure managed by the first-person observation of a very young observer who incidentally becomes the protagonist of a formation novel.

Scout and Adso are witnesses of the talent, the moral integrity and nonetheless the defeat of their mentors: Atticus and William of Baskerville are intellectual figures characterized by the tension regulating their relationship with society, because of the dangers of using reason against the dogmatism of the dominant culture, be it racial segregation or the fury of the Inquisition.

To Kill a Mockingbird is clearly a courageous novel for the challenge of its topic, in the historical moment of its publication – but in its own way The Name of the Rose is brave in claiming the dignity of genre literature (murder mystery, in this case) and portraying the difference between a quest for truth and the hunt for a culprit (sometimes two very different things).

Much has been said about the levels of interpretation in Eco’s works, much less about how a similar structure is also present in Harper Lee’s masterpiece; and yet along with Scout’s education we follow the unraveling of a court case, the evidence of a climate of injustice and prejudice and also the real story of Boo Radley, the character who inspired the title of the book.

Despite their apparent failure of both Atticus and William in the end of the novel, their example is still strong and experience brings to understanding and growth; stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.