Archived from The Magdalene Review: Monday 28 November 2005

This is an excerpt from an opinion piece posted today on The Sunday Telegraph opinion page:

God isn’t big enough for some people

by Umberto Eco

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” Whoever said it – he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

The “death of God”, or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church — from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

It is amazing how many people take that book literally, and think it is true. Admittedly, Dan Brown, its author, has created a legion of zealous followers who believe that Jesus wasn’t crucified: he married Mary Magdalene, became the King of France, and started his own version of the order of Freemasons. Many of the people who now go to the Louvre are there only to look at the Mona Lisa, solely and simply because it is at the centre of Dan Brown’s book.

Tsk. I think everyone already knows by now that Umberto Eco is no fan of The Da Vinci Code. Early on, some slavished praise on Dan Brown for writing a book worthy of Eco, a laughable suggestion at best, and perhaps Eco took it personally. I remember seeing a documentary, or video (sorry, can’t remember what it was now)*, in which Umberto Eco was interviewed about all of this Mary Magdalene and Jesus being married business. He seemed highly amused by the whole thing, and proudly showed off a shelf in his study on which he stored books that were nonsense. (Drat! I’ve even forgotten the witty name he gave this shelf!) He made a very clear point of filing the book in question, either The Da Vinci Code or Holy Blood, Holy Grail, on THAT shelf.

Today, the article with the above excerpt showed up online. Now, I just have to say that someone with Eco’s reputation and stature really is in a position to say something memorable to those of us who pay attention to this sort of thing. Something memorable in a good way. But the excerpt above displays quite a bit of ambiguity.

Jesus became the King of France and started an order of Freemasons?!

Clearly, there ARE people around who believe these sorts of things, but Dan Brown never says either in DVC. I wonder, was he being facetious with the remarkable absurdity of these claims, as an example of how inane DVC is? Or is he really trying to give a brief synopsis of the more ridiculous–but non-existent–points of the book? Or is he lurking on email lists reading the kinds of bizarre theories being floated these days? As much as I rather enjoy the incongruous mental image of Umberto Eco haunting alt.conspiracy late at night, I sort of have my doubts about that one.

Whichever the case, I’m disappointed. I think the article was otherwise very interesting and he was going in a potentially meaningful direction with all of this.


3 Archived Comments for ‘Umberto Eco has been naughty.’

    Joshua H
    November 29, 2005 | 3:20 pm

    Eco called it his “Library of Books About Wrong Theories”. Luckily, I still had the show (”Unlocking Da Vinci’s Code”) on my DVR; it was a bit sensationalist, but there were a few grounded points made, particuarly by Karen King and Elaine Pagels.

    November 29, 2005 | 3:57 pm

    Was that the television special with Elizabeth Vargas?

    I wasn’t sure if it was that one or the DVD produced by Disinfo, “Da Vinci Code Decoded.” This one is a must see if only for the comments made by Henry Lincoln, who says (I’m paraphrasing) that nothing in Holy Blood, Holy Grail or its follow-up books can be substantiated as fact, that it is all speculation.

    Joshua H
    November 29, 2005 | 6:04 pm

    Yep, that’s the one. I haven’t seen the Disinfo DVD, but I’ll check it out when I get the chance (despite never having read Brown’s book).

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