Baudolino by Umberto Eco
In this piece to fiction that is as mythically epic as any of Eco’s work, the Italian Professor reminds us of the most important lesson of history: The only absolute part of truth is its malleability.
Set amidst the sacking of Constantinople (not Istanbul) in the second crusade, the title character recounts his life story, even as the city burns, to a court historian, Niketas. The adoptive son of Fredrick Barbarossa and a self-confessed liar, Baudolino tells a fabulous story about his life-long search for the mythical ruler known only as Prester John. John, who was largely invented by Baudolino, is said to rule over a vast christian nation far to the east full of fantastic creatures and strange phenomena including a river of tumbling stone. Over time, even Baudolino’s companions, who helped conceive of this Prester John, begin to believe in his existence.
Playful and accessible, Baudolino presents a world that is simultaneously recognizable and yet somehow skewed, and in doing so points a finger both at belief and our preconceptions of history.
-Jonathan Gallaway, Blackboard Manager