Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Island of the Day Before

The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco  515 pp.

This is a historical novel full of the oddities and quirks that tend to populate Eco's works. It takes place in 1643 and an Italian nobleman, Roberto della Griva is the only survivor of a South Pacific shipwreck. After floating on a plank he runs into an abandoned ship, the Daphne, anchored near a small island. Roberto cannot get to the island because he is unable to swim and there is no lifeboat on board the ship. The ship seems deserted although there is plentiful food and water, live chickens and other animals, and plants growing on board. Soon he realizes he is not alone but it takes him awhile to find the other ship's resident, an old Jesuit. Amidst Roberto's reminiscences and dreams of events of his past, there is a story of the Daphne's journey to attempt measuring the elusive longitude. The priest convinces Roberto that they are stranded on what we now call the International Date Line with the island on the other side of the line. The author's pondering at the end on the possible ways Roberto's papers with the story were recovered are interesting and somewhat amusing -- Captain Bligh is included in one of them. In my opinion this isn't Eco's best work, but it isn't his worst by far.

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