I swear Umberto Eco has read every book in the world. The depth of his literary referencing is beyond amazing. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is, like all of Eco’s books, truly beautiful: a work of fiction that goes far beyond its story.

It’s based on an interesting premise: a man wakes up in hospital with amnesia. He can’t remember who he is, or anything about his life: the only things he can remember are from the books he’s read. But which ones, and why? He isn’t sure. His wife sends him back to his childhood home, where he attempts to rediscover himself through the piles of comics, books and dusty pieces of paraphernalia that litter the old attic.

I’m not sure anyone else could have written this book: you’d need to have read so many just to be able to complete a chapter or two. Luckily, Eco is incredibly well-read and seems to speak rather a lot of languages, so it all hangs together in a portrait of perfection.

Eco is also the only person I’ve known to be able to describe defecation in a way that makes it sound really quite beautiful. I know it’s not the nicest of subjects, but it’s just another proof of his genius that he is able to take something so base, so generally disgusting, and make it into a beautiful and natural process. I was going to quote it, but I’ll leave you to find it when you read the book. Because read it you must.

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