Yambo, a sixty-ish rare book dealer who lives in Milan has suffered a loss of memory; not the kind of memory neurologists call 'semantic' (Yambo remembers all about Julius Caesar and can recite every poem he has ever read), but rather his 'autobiographical' memory: he no longer knows his own name, doesn't recognize his wife or his daughters, doesn ...
Yambo, a sixty-ish rare book dealer who lives in Milan has suffered a loss of memory; not the kind of memory neurologists call 'semantic' (Yambo remembers all about Julius Caesar and can recite every poem he has ever read), but rather his 'autobiographical' memory: he no longer knows his own name, doesn't recognize his wife or his daughters, doesn't remember anything about his parents or his childhood. His wife, who is at his side as he slowly begins to recover, convinces him to return to his family home in the hills somewhere between Milan and Turin. Yambo promptly retreats to the sprawling attic, cluttered with boxes of newspapers, comics, records, photo albums and adolescent diaries. There, he relives the story of his generation: Mussolini, Catholic education and guilt, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Cyrano de Bergerac. As he recovers his memory, two voids remain shrouded in fog: a terrible event he experienced during the resistance, and the vague image of a girl whom he loved at sixteen, then lost. But a relapse occurs. Now in a coma, his memories run wild, and life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel. Yambo struggles through the frames to find at last the face of the girl he loves: she descends the stairs of their high school and morphs into a Dante-esque promise (or threat) of the afterlife, as he struggles harder to capture her simple, innocent, real-life image - the schoolgirl he never forgot. Copiously illustrated throughout with images from comics, book jackets, record sleeves and other printed ephemera, The Mysterious Flame is a fascinating and hugely entertaining new novel from the incomparable Umberto Eco.
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Publishers Weekly, 2005-07-11 Guidall gives a polished, Masterpiece Theatre-worthy sheen to Eco's odd, funny tale of Yambo, a man who discovers that while remembering the plots and details of all the books and films he's ever read or seen, he has no recollection of his own life or his name. His sonorous tones are soothing, lending Eco's prose a certain hushed aura, but there is something strangely off about the marriage of the Italian author's intellectual mystery story and Guidall's rolling British cadences. It is as if Guidall's Oxbridge enunciation were thought necessary to gussy up Eco's novel, something it is distinctly not in need of. Overemoting, Guidall turns Yambo into a ham actor rather than a slightly comic figure befuddled by a world full of mysterious and alluring signs. Guidall does do a solid job capturing the quicksilver changes in emotional temperature of the volatile protagonist, who is unable to comprehend the confusing new world he finds himself in. Even in this, though, Guidall is more like an actor professing befuddlement than someone actually finding himself disoriented by his mind's empty spaces. Simultaneous release with Harcourt hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 21). (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-03-21 When aging Italian book-dealer Yambo, hero of this engaging if somewhat bloodless novel of ideas, regains consciousness after a mysterious coma, he suffers a peculiar form of amnesia. His "public" memory of languages, everyday routines, history and literature remains intact, but his autobiographical memory of personal experiences-of his family, lovers, childhood, even his name-is gone. He can spout literary and cultural allusions on any topic, citing everything from Moby-Dick to Star Trek, but complains, "I don't have feelings, I only have memorable sayings." To recover his past, he repairs to his boyhood home to peruse a cache of memorabilia amassed in his youth during Mussolini's reign and WWII, consisting of comic books, schoolbooks, Fascist propaganda, popular music, romantic novels and his own poetry about an unattainable high school beauty. The setup allows semiotician and novelist Eco (The Name of the Rose, etc.) to indulge his passion for pulp materials by reproducing such objects as movie posters, song lyrics and a graphic novella rendering the Book of Revelation as a Flash Gordon melodrama, with intriguing asides on cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind thrown in. The result has a somewhat academic feel, but it's an absorbing exploration of how that most fundamental master-narrative, our memory, is pieced together from a bricolage of pop culture. Illus. Author tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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