By Umberto Eco
Nineteenth-century Europe abounds with conspiracy either ghastly and mysterious. Jesuits plot opposed to Freemasons. Italian monks are strangled with their very own intestines. French criminals plan bombings through day and rejoice black lots through evening. each state has its personal mystery carrier, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. yet what if, at the back of all of those conspiracies, lies only one guy?
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Extra info for The Prague cemetery
Calm down, I told myself, let’s think. For someone who forges documents under the pretext of selling bric-a-brac, and who has chosen to live in one of the less desirable districts of Paris, it was not improbable that I had given protection to a person caught up in some shady machinations. But not to remember to whom I had given protection didn’t seem normal. I looked around, and suddenly my own house seemed strange, as if it were someone else’s house, as if perhaps it held other secrets. Leaving the kitchen, to the right was the bedroom, to the left the living room with its usual furniture.
And once Magny had been purged, so to speak, I started going occasionally, starting in the early ’80s. I saw men of science there, including eminent chemists such as Berthelot and many doctors from the Salpêtrière. The hospital isn’t exactly close by, but perhaps the clinicians find pleasure in taking a short walk in the Latin Quarter rather than eating at the filthy gargotes where the patients’ families go. Since medical discussions invariably relate to the infirmities of others, and since at Magny, to compete with the noise, everyone talks loudly, a trained ear can usually pick up something interesting.
I was wondering what third-rate actor I might have taken in over the past few days when I realized that I too had been in disguise, since the mustache and beard I’d been wearing were not my own. Was I someone, then, who dressed alternately as a respectable gentleman and as a priest? But how had I blotted out all recollection of this second part of me? Or maybe for some reason (perhaps to avoid an arrest warrant) I had disguised myself in mustache and beard and at the same time had given hospitality to a person dressed as an abbé?
The Prague cemetery by Umberto Eco