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The Prague Cemetery- Umberto Eco

October 23, 2016

tpcI’ve been to the ghetto and that cemetery.

Captain Simone Simoni slithers across Europe in the pay of one secret service after another, claiming personal responsibility for the calumnies that provoked most of the political crises of the 19th century. He serves his apprenticeship during Italy’s campaign to liberate itself from Austrian rule. Officially he joins the novelist Alexandre Dumas in embellishing the mystique of Garibaldi; secretly he demolishes the patriotic myth, exposing the fabled warrior as a short, bandy-legged mediocrity. Abandoning Sicily for Paris, he stirs up trouble during the Commune, and goes on to concoct the incriminating document that causes Dreyfus to be convicted of treason. Side excursions link him with the Turkish conman Osman Bey and with the Romanovs in their efforts to suppress the bomb-throwing nihilists. Simonini’s customers and victims are all actual historical characters, which enables Eco to suggest that history is a tissue of fictions, not a tale told by an idiot but a text slickly pieced together by self-appointed authorities who should never be trusted.

tpc3Simonini also dabbles in diabolism, and enjoys hoaxing the hoaxer Leo Taxil, who in 1897 staged a perverse and sexually flagrant Black Mass to mock Freemasonry and the Catholic church. His masterpiece is a Gothic fantasy about a nocturnal gathering of rabbis who come together in the cemetery in the Prague ghetto, among upended gravestones that might be the pages of a chaotic, crumbling book, to avenge the humiliations of their race by planning a Jewish coup that will commandeer financial and political power. Elaborating their mad schemes, Simonini the crazed anti-Semite sketches the notorious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which Hitler called his “warrant for genocide”.

Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian republicans strangle priests with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate Black Masses at night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres.

Roman Catholicism and its anti-Semitism  is portrayed ‘at its most mythically malevolent’.

I had to look up mouchards = An undercover investigator; a police spy, especially in a French-speaking country.


The Fourierists? They’re good people, but how can you believe in a prophet who declares that in a new world oranges would be grown in Warsaw, seas would become lemonade, men would grow tails, and incest and homosexuality would be recognised as the most natural human impulses?

“Jew and Protestant are the same. The English Methodists, the German Pietists, the Swiss and the Dutch all learn to read the will of God from the same book as the Jews — the Bible, a story of incest and massacres and barbarous wars, where the only way to win is through treachery and decep­tion, where kings have men murdered so they can take their wives, where women who call themselves saints enter the beds of enemy generals and cut off their heads. Cromwell had the head of his king cut off while quoting the Bible. Malthus, who denied the children of the poor the right to life was steeped in the Bible. It’s a race which spends its time recalling its slavery, and which is always ready to yield the cult of the golden calf ignoring every sign of divine wrath. The battle against the Jews ought to be the main purpose of every socialist worthy of the name. I am not wilting about communists — their founder is a Jew. But the problem is exposing the conspiracy of money. Why does an apple in a Paris restaurant cost a hundred times more than m Normandy? There are unscrupulous races who live on the flesh of others, merchant races like the ancient Phoenicians and Carthaginians. And today it’s the English and the Jews.”

“So for you, the Englishman and the Jew are the same?”

“Almost. You ought to read what a leading English politi­cian has written in his novel Coningsby — a certain Disraeli, a Sephardic Jew who converted to Christianity. He had the temerity to write that the Jews were going to take over the world.”

The following day he brought me a book by Disraeli, in which he had underlined whole passages: “You never observe a great intellectual movement in Europe in which the Jews do not greatly participate. The first Jesuits were Jews. That mysterious Russian diplomacy which so alarms Western Europe, who is running it? The Jews! Who is taking over almost all of the professorial chairs of Germany?

“Note that Disraeli is not a mouchard who is denouncing his own people. On the contrary, he is praising their virtues. He writes quite shamelessly that the Russian minister of finance, Count Cancrin, is the son of a Lithuanian Jew, in the same way that the Spanish minister Mendizabal is the son of a convert from Aragon. Soult, an imperial marshal

in Paris, is the son of a French Jew, and Massena was also a Jew, whose original name was Manesseh. . . . And there again, that mighty revolution being plotted at this very moment in Germany, who is behind it? The Jews. Look at Karl Marx and his communists.”

He told me the proportion of women of ill-repute was higher among Jews than among Christians (and don’t we know it, I thought, from the Gospels, where Jesus meets fallen women wherever he goes?) and went on to demonstrate how in Talmudic teaching there is no mention of neighbours, nor any suggestion of duties towards them, which explains and justifies in its own way the ruthlessness of Jews in ruining families, seducing young girls, and putting widows and old people on the streets after bleeding them of all their money. The number of criminals, as well as prostitutes, was also higher among Jews than Christians. “Did you know,” said Gougenot, “that eleven out of twelve cases of theft brought before the courts in Leipzig were committed by Jews?” adding with a malicious smile, “And in fact on Calvary there were two criminals for a single just man. And generally speaking, the crimes committed by Jews are the more heinous, such as deception, forgery, usury, fraudulent bankruptcy, smug­gling, producing counterfeit money, extortion, commercial fraud. . . . I need hardly continue.”

“Let us spread the idea of progress which leads to equality for all religions,” said Rabbi Manasse. “Let us fight to stop lessons about the Christian religion in school syllabuses.

Israelites, through their skill and education, will have no difficulty in finding teaching posts in Christian schools..

Religious education will then be relegated to the family, and since most families have little time to concern themselves with this branch of learning, religious feeling will gradually fade.”

A Jew is still a Jew even if, by accident of nature, he is born with blond hair and blue eyes, in the same way as there are children born with six fingers and women capable of doing multipli­cation. And an Aryan is an Aryan if he lives the spirit of his people, even if he has black hair.

“People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction.”

“Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards; those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and those bastards always talk about the purity of race.”
“A mystic is a hysteric who has met her confessor before her doctor.”
“Listening doesn’t mean trying to understand. Anything, however trifling, may be of use one day. What matters is to know something that others don’t know you know.”
“Libraries are fascinating places; sometimes you feel you are under the canopy of a railway station, and when you read books about exotic places there’s a feeling of traveling to distant lands.”
“You always want someone to hate in order to feel justified in your own misery. Hatred is the true primordial passion. It is love that’s abnormal. That is why Christ was killed: he spoke against nature. You don’t love someone for your whole life – that impossible hope is the source of adultery, matricide, betrayal of friends … But you can hate someone for your whole life – provided he’s always there to keep your hatred alive. Hatred warms the heart.”
“National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same.”
“For the enemy to be recognized and feared, he has to be in your home or on your doorstep.”
“You cannot change the world with ideas. People with few ideas are less likely to make mistakes; they follow what everyone else does and are no trouble to anyone; they’re successful, make money, find good jobs, enter politics, receive honours; they become famous writers, academics, journalists. Can anyone who is so good at looking after their own interests really be stupid? I’m the stupid one, the one who wanted to go tilting at windmills.”
“Man’s principle trait is a readiness to believe anything. Otherwise, how could the Church have survived for almost two thousand years in the absence of universal gullibility?”
“What does the philosopher say? Odi ergo sum. I hate therefore I am.”
“It takes a little time, but the pleasures of cooking begin before the pleasures of the palate, and preparing means anticipating …”
“When a spy sells something entirely new, all he needs to do is recount something you could find in any second-hand book stall.”
“Not that he felt any particular love for himself, but his dislike of others induced him to make the best of his own company.”
“But Paris, all in all, isn’t what it used o be, ever since that pencil sharpener, the Eiffel Tower, has been sticking up in the distance, visible from every angle.”
“I never liked writing concluding paragraphs to papers where you just repeat what you’ve already said with phrases like ‘In summation’ and ‘To conclude’.”
“I hated my mother who had gone without telling me, I hated my father who had done nothing to stop her, I hated God because he had willed such a thing to happen, and I hated my grandfather because he thought it normal for God to will such things.”
“All I know about the Jews is what my grandfather taught me. “They are the most godless people,” he used to say. “They start off from the idea that good must happen here, not beyond the grave. Therefore, they work only for the conquest of this world.”
“In other words, although I don’t like them, we do need noble-spirited souls.”
“I am gripped by an irresistible urge to kill myself, but I know it’s the devil tempting me.”
“With Germans, as with women, you never get to the point.”
“Luther, he ruined the bible by translating it into their own language.”
“But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same. Hatred has to be cultivated as a civic passion. The enemy is the friend of the people. You always want someone to hate in order to feel justified in your own misery.”
“some impudent young Parisian had made a malicious reference in his presence to the latest theories suggesting a link between primitive man and lower species. Dumas replied: “Yes, sir, I do indeed come from the monkey. But you, sir, are returning to one!” He”
“The year had begun with the first protests in Milan against the Austrians, where citizens had stopped smoking to damage the revenues of the imperial government (those Milanese comrades, who stood firm when soldiers and police provoked them by blowing clouds of sweet-scented cigar smoke at them, were seen by my Turin companions as heroes).”
“Then it is he who has sinned, not me. If I had to start worrying whether the client might be lying, I would no longer be in this profession, which is based on trust.”
“If you accuse a man of murder, you might be believed, but if you accuse him of eating children for lunch and dinner like Gilles de Rais, no one will take you seriously.”
“No one believes their misfortunes are attributable to any shortcomings of their own; that is why they must find a culprit.”
“The German lives in a state of perpetual intestinal embarrassment due to an excess of beer and the pork sausages on which he gorges himself.”
“But why, everybody asks, am I not blessed by fortune (or at least not as blessed as I would like to be)? Why have I not been favored like others who are less deserving? No one believes their misfortunes are attributable to any shortcomings of their own; that is why they must find a culprit.”
“Palladism. Then I came to Paris. Maybe they wanted to”
“For the enemy to be recognized and feared, he has to be in your home or on your doorstep. Hence the Jews. Divine providence has given them to us, and so, by God, let us use them, and pray there’s always some Jew to fear and to hate. We need an enemy to give people hope.”
“A German produces on average twice the feces of a Frenchman. Hyperactivity of the bowel at the expense of the brain, which demonstrates their physiological inferiority.”

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