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View Full Version : Required Background Reading: "Foucault's Pendulum"



Zymoticus
22nd Jun 2003, 04:08
A couple weeks ago I picked up my old copy of Umberto Eco's novel "Foucault's Pendulum" - which I'd read a few years ago. 'Don't know what made me think of going back and reading it again, I guess I just wanted a challenge and something made me think of it - maybe what I've read about AOD's villains?

Anyhoo, since I had forgotten most of the details of it, after a couple of chapters I was stunned by the book's similarity to the setup of Angel of Darkness: a mysterious, secret society of shadowy types with roots in medieval mysticism, the Templars, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, etc., hatching a sinister plot to bring great evil down on the world.

Umberto Eco, for those unfamiliar with him, is the guy who wrote "Name of the Rose," upon which the Sean Connery/Christian Slater/F. Murray Abraham film was based. He's also a professor of philosophy or history or some similar field (I forget which,) at a university in Italy.

Since he likes to pack his books with massive quantities of obscure references to even more obscure European historical writings, people, events, etc., this particular book is almost as difficult to follow as Shakespeare. Every other line contains references to stuff you'd have to spend months researching just to make sense of, therefore you have to just "wing it" through a lot of his details.
But knowing that everything he references likely exists in real life (probably in some dusty European archives,) just adds to the story he weaves - a story powerful enough to keep me plowing through in spite of its complexity. A helpful hint: the first 30 or 40 pages are like a "warmup" and might put people off - the story doesn't kick into gear until after pg 50 or so. So....."patience, Grasshoppah."

If you want to give your brain a good workout and add a bizarre tale as further backdrop to Lara Croft's latest exploits, I highly recommend taking a trip through "Foucault's Pendulum" as you progress through the game.

'Anyone else here read it before?

DanO-mulder
22nd Jun 2003, 04:14
Thanks for tip Zymoticus... I'll give it go...Sounds like it will set the right mood and atmosphere....

keithmasterson
11th Jan 2004, 01:07
Hey when you're right, you're right. I ran out of King, Koontz and Crichton titles to pass the winter silly season, remembered trying "Pendulum" in'86 when it came out and gave up after ten pages because it was like fighting traffic, figured it was worth a second shot since "Name of the Rose" has stayed with me mentally for decades. Having finished AOD in September and traded it in for a Max Payne+Cate Archer+Grand Theft Auto (wife thought if Congress hated it then it has to be good), and I supposed I'd pretty much gotten over Lara Croft. THen in chapter one of "pendulum" the guy's hiding in a museum wondering if there are tunnels into it from the Paris sewer (that sounds familiar), and chapter two he takes a phone call from
a colleague claiming 'they tricked me into coming to Paris because they thought I had a map'.....by now I'm calling up Amazon.com synopses and discover that AOD developers lifted whole chunks intact right out of the plot. Like the Canadians say, " If you have to steal, steal from the finest" (they got their national anthem from Mozart's opera Magic Flute). So I think I'm really on to something noteworthy, I'm going to post it in the forum, wonder if anyone else noticed-- sure enough a search shows you beat me to it by a mere 7 months. Anyway it's nice to know I'm not imagining things, plagiarism is as alive and well now as it was when the great classical composers subscribed to each others folio publications and then republished them under their own names.

jso2897
11th Jan 2004, 01:44
Finally, an interesting thread! Thanks for sharing this - it would be interesting to research the literary influences that have contibuted to TR - they are undoubtably many and various. And I never would have discovered this one on my own. Sadly, I find Eco utterly unreadable (and believe me, Ive tried).

Zymoticus
11th Jan 2004, 04:19
Hmmm - I had no idea that AOD's writers grabbed extensive chunks of "Pendulum" and incorporated it into the game. To tell the truth, I've stalled in AOD out of a combination of boredom and annoyance at the new controls, right near the beginning, at that Parisian cathedral that's been converted to a boxing gym... Did we really need a whole new needlessly-complex and infuriatingly touchy control scheme for running and standing jumps? This is an improvement? aaarrrgghh.
Additionally, I'll stand by what I (and many others) posted here a long time ago: Mucking about in delapidated urban/industrial settings with random Bad Guys is roughly one-tenth-of-one-percent as enjoyable as blasting away at frolicking (but deadly) tigers, gorillas, spiders, alligators and miscellaneous other wild creatures, while exploring exotic, beautifully-rendered natural and ancient settings.

But I digress.

Maybe I have a bit of a 'head start' in reading Eco because I've studied philosophy out of personal interest (blame Ms. Rand,) for close to 20 years, and have been fascinated by history since I was old enough to read. Even so, he packs so much incidental detail - all of it presumably based on real arcana - that you simply have to just shine a good chunk of it on...

I also read through those customer reviews of "Pendulum" on Amazon - and what seemed to escape most of the critics there, is the fact that the novel is actually a subtle and frequently hilarious black comedy. It's a burning satire both of crackpot mysticism (is there any other kind?) and of European left-wing intellectualism, particularly the subjectivist and relativist variants thereof. The theme could be summed up as "Be careful what you wish for," or "when people push ideologies calling for the destruction of important things, including human lives, they generally mean it" (enviro/collectivist types please take note....)

But I think calling AOD's Eco-esque content "plagiarism" is a bit harsh. On the one hand it's far more likely explainable as a quiet homage to a brilliant (though extremely difficult) writer; on the other, AOD's creators likely saw no harm or dishonesty in taking a tip from Eco (assuming they were even aware of the guy's work,) and incorporating elements of European history and historical literature which are, after all, presumably factual and therefore within the public domain. These elements are also more than a little creepy, haunting and malevolent - and therefore fascinating by their very nature.

Now, if they had renamed Lara Croft as "Lara Casaubon" and Kurtis Trent as "Kurtis Belbo," it would have been a different story (pun if you want it...)

As I say, I haven't progressed far enough into the game to have run across any overt similarities to "Pendulum," so my data remains insufficient.

Zymoticus
11th Jan 2004, 04:32
The Canadians got their anthem from Mozart? And all this time I'd thought they lifted it from the Olympics theme - or was it the other way around? Hmmm...

And then there's that whole NFL "Sleighride" thing - what the hell's that all about?

It's starting to make me reconsider Dirk Gently's theory of "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things." Now that I mention it, I do think it's about time for another lengthy Douglas Adams fix!
:D

Right after I finish Yoshikawa's "Musashi"...

_/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/

Nihonjin kanojo boshu-chu!

\_ \_ \_ \_ \_ \_ \_ \_ \_ \_ \_

jso2897
12th Jan 2004, 01:11
Well, there's no accounting for taste. Rand I find iminently readable - both her fiction and nonfiction. What I failed to mention is that I find Eco's nonfiction offerings ( right now I.m reading "travels in hypereality") quite enjoyable. Some authors produce very different work when wearing different hats. But, love him or hate him, there's no denying his intelligence and talent.

John Carter
12th Jan 2004, 01:45
Your assignment, jso2897, should you choose to accept it, is to analyze Lara Croft from the perspective of her embodiment of Objectivist principle.

jso2897
12th Jan 2004, 03:04
Well, I'll give it a shot - shouldn't be too hard to do actually. Placing Lara in the company of Dominique Francon and Dagny Taggart isn't all that much of a stretch. Permit me to address some issues:

Personality: A no-brainer. Lara's steely, fearless, unsparing persona could almost have been directly modeled on any of Rand's ladies. Ms Taggart even proved capable of using deadly force when it was philosophically justifiable.

Philosophy: Here too, she fits right into the mold. Lara is a walking embodiment of the objectivist principle of holding ones own life and desires to be the standard from which all values spring. Lara judges all things against the standard of her self. She keeps her own council, trusts no one, and forms her own opinions - without regard to anyone else's. She acknowledges no unearned obligations to anyone, and accepts or rejects "society's" rules according to her own value system.

Morality and ethics: Here we encounter a somewhat more problematic situation - for Lara is, after all a thief - and the objectivist thinker does not attach value to or attempt to obtain the unearned at the expense of others. This, however, does not actually prohibit one from taking things by force or stealth under certain circumstances. I would refer to the character Ragnar Daneskold, the pirate who works in secret with John Galt and Francisco D'Aconia to return the ill gotten gains of statist thugs to their rightful owners. To the extent that it is ever explained in the games, Lara never seems to be depriving the productive of the fruits of their labor in an attempt to obtain the unearned, but rather retreiving illegitimately obtained treasure from thugs or supernatural monsters* in an attempt to forestall some egregious wrong being done, or some terrible catastophe from occurring. This type of "stealing" does not constitute an attempt to fake reality by obtaining false value, and thereby does not violate objectivist principle.

* While it is notable that the objectivist does not acknowledge the "supernatural", in Lara's fictional world, the supernatural is real, and not a self decieving illusion. So while Lara may not have been created by objectivists, she may very well BE one.

And above all, Lara is a stong, independent woman, who leans on no one, and acknowledges no one as her superior. Seems to me she would be right at home in Galt's gulch. Maybe that's where the REAL Croft mansion is.:D

CatSuit&Ponytail
12th Jan 2004, 12:21
Long ago when I saw the movie The Name Of The Rose I suggested to my best friend at the time that I would read it because I liked the film so much. He said, "Don't read it, it's nearly impossible to wade through all the author's obscure references." He also said the author was much too fond of the idea of his own cleverness, but not in such polite terms, hehehe. So, I took his advice, because I can make really nice headaches all by myself. ;) He did however, want me to read Rand, and I was very surprised at what I found. But that was long ago, before Alexandria burned. Nowadays reading is mostly a strange language or on a monitor.


*Makes a mental note to listen very carefully to the Magic Flute*

keithmasterson
12th Jan 2004, 23:59
It's the intro to the second act if I remember right. You can't miss it, it's obvious as a Bavarian whipcream pie upside the head. The composer was a 19th century French Canadian woman who got a street named after her in Montreal. As Tender Vittles ads say, 'Good taste is easy to recognize'

jso2897
13th Jan 2004, 01:12
"As obvious as a Bavarian whipcream pie upside the head"?
I think I like this guy.:D

Lord Henshingly Croft
15th Jan 2004, 16:07
now you are talking about this book(or at least i think so) can you still buy it somewhere because you guys interrested me for it, by the way i live in the netherlands so does anyone know what the titel is is in dutch?

keithmasterson
17th Jan 2004, 03:48
I'd think so, "Name of the Rose" supposedly sold 50 million copies worldwide, the original was in Italian and there's only 50 million of them to begin with. Add up U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and New Zealand and multiply by a generous 1% readership, it's not even 5 million. "Foucault's Pendulum" came out 3 years later and is reported to have been another bestseller, I imagine publishers would spend the money to get it translated wherever markets were available. But your English seems good enough to take a shot at it that way if necessary, just skip over the parts that don't seem familiar, because a lot of it's unfamiliar unless you're a specialist in medieval history. I'm 80% through it and so far my favorite part is where a publisher swindles his clients, funny as hell, makes me wonder why they didn't make a movie from that one. I'm still convinced AOD took a lot of material from the book, like the huge cavern Lara floods and swims out of with the Zombie Knights guarding it, sounds like Eco's description of the Templar elite's underground refuge. Even the greenhouse full of bizarre lifeforms is mentioned. Not to mention the whole concept of secret societies seeking a hiddden power source over centuries. Maybe it's just as well they didn't film it, it makes a better videogame.

keithmasterson
18th Jan 2004, 21:55
To qualify my original contention, 'plagiarisation of entire chunks intact' seems exaggerated now that I finished the book. There was some borrowing, and I think it might have been appropriate to acknowledge it in the video trailer that came with the game, seeing as how they did acknowledge several cinema and graphic influences. But look at all the shows borrowing from TR. By my count they include:
James Cameron's "Dark Angel" TV series, a flagrant ripoff.
Tia Carerre's "Relic Hunter" series in syndication, as close a copy as the law apparently will permit.
The TV series "J.A.G." introduced the character of a formidable, voluptuous British brunette military officer a few seasons ago, don't know if she's still around.
Rachel Weisz was not recognizably a Lara clone in "The Mummy", but had clearly become so in the sequel "Mummy Returns".
And even the X-files showed an episode about a videogame goddess run amok.
Searching the word "Clone" in this forum turned up info on other videogames tapping into the Lara phenomenon, I suppose even "No one lives Forever" could be included with these.
And there must be more that haven't occurred to me.