For what I saw at the abbey then (and will now recount) caused me to think that often inquisitors create heretics. And not only in the sense that they imagine heretics where these do not exist, but also that inquisitors repress the heretical putrefaction so vehemently that many are driven to share in it, in their hatred for the judges. Truly, a circle conceived by the Devil. God preserve us. (First Day, Sext)

"Then we are living in a place abandoned by God," I said, disheartened.
"Have you found any places where God would have felt at home?" William asked me, looking down from his great height. (Second Day, Nones)

"But why doesn't the Gospel ever say that Christ laughed?" I asked, for no good reason. "Is Jorge right?"
"Legions of scholars have wondered whether Christ laughed. The question doesn't interest me much. I believe he never laughed, because, omniscient as the son of God had to be, he knew how we Christians would behave. . . ." (Second Day, Compline)

"What terrifies you most in purity," I asked?
"Haste," William answered. (Fifth Day, Nones)

"I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand is the relation among signs . . . I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe."
"But in imagining an erroneous order you still found something. . . ."
"What you say is very fine, Adso, and I thank you. The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless . . . The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away." (Seventh Day, Night)

"Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth." (Seventh Day, Night)

A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would have not written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations. (Postscript)

The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text. (Postscript)


That was when I saw the Pendulum.

The sphere, hanging from a long wire set into the ceiling of the choir, swayed back and forth with isochronal majesty.

I knew -- but anyone could have sensed it in the magic of that serene breathing -- that the period was governed by the square root of the length of the wire and by pi, that number which, however irrational to sublunar minds, through a higher rationality binds the circumference and diameter of all possible circles. The time it took the sphere to swing from end to end was determined by an arcane conspiracy between the most timeless of measures: the singularity of the point of suspension, the duality of the plane's dimensions, the triadic beginning of pi, the secret quadratic nature of the root, and the unnumbered perfection of the circle itself.

I also knew that a magnetic device centered in the floor beneath issued its command to a cylinder hidden in the heart of the sphere, thus assuring continual motion. This device, far from interfering with the law of the Pendulum, in fact permitted its manifestation, for in vacuum any object hanging from a weightless and unstretchable wire free of air resistance and friction will oscillate for eternity...

So it was not so much the earth to which I addressed my gaze but the heavens, where the mystery of absolute immobility was celebrated. The Pendulum told me that, as everything moved -- earth, solar system, nebulae and black holes, all the children of the great cosmic expansion -- one single point stood still: a pivot, bolt, or hook around which the universe could move. And I was now taking part in that supreme experience. I, too, moved with the all, but I could see the One, the Rock, the Guarantee, the luminous mist that is not body, that has no shape, weight, quantity, or quality, that does not see or hear, that cannot be sensed, that is in no place, in no time, and is not soul, intelligence, imagination, opinion, number, order or measure. Neither darkness nor light, neither error nor truth...

Idiot. Above her head was the only stable place in the cosmos, the only refuge from the damnation of the panta rei, and she guessed it was the Pendulum's business, not hers. A moment later the couple went off -- he, trained on some textbook that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awsomeness of their encounter -- their first and last encounter -- with the One, the Ein-Sof, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude? (Chapter 1)

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. (Chapter 7)

"Gentlemen, I will now show you this text. Forgive me for using a photocopy. It's not distrust. I don't want to subject the original to further wear."
"But Ingolf's copy wasn't the original," I said. "The parchment was the original."
"Casaubon, when originals no longer exist, the last copy is the original." (Chapter 18)

I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing. (Chapter 87)

A plot, if there is to be one, must be a secret. A secret that, if we only knew it, would dispel our frustration, lead us to salvation; or else the knowing of it in itself would be salvation. Does such a luminous secret exist?
Yes, provided it is never known. Known, it will only disappoint us.

Yet someone had just arrived and declared himself the Son of God, the Son of God made flesh, to redeem the sins of the world. Was that a run-of-the-mill mystery? And he promised salvation to all: you only had to love your neighbor. Was that a trivial secret? And he bequeathed the idea that whoever uttered the right words at the right time could turn a chunk of bread and a half-glass of wine into the body and blood of the Son of God, and be nourished by it. Was that a paltry riddle? And then he led the Church fathers to ponder and proclaim that God was One and Triune and that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, but that the Son did not proceed from the Father and the Spirit. Was that some easy formula for hylics? And yet they, who now had salvation within their grasp do-it-yourself salvation turned deaf ears. Is that all there is to it? How trite. And they kept on scouring the Mediterranean in their boats, looking for a lost knowledge, of which those thirty-denarii dogmas were but the superficial veil, the parable for the poor in spirit, the allusive hieroglyph, the wink of the eye at the pneumatics. The mystery of the Trinity? Too simple: there had to be more to it. 


"You cannot believe what you are saying."
"Well, no. Hardly ever. But the philosopher is like the poet. The latter composes ideal letters for an ideal nymph, only to plumb with his words the depths of passion. The philosopher tests the coldness of his gaze, to see how far he can undermine the fortress of bigotry." (Chapter 8)

The truth is a young maiden as modest as she is beautiful, and therefore she is always seen cloaked. (Chapter 12)

"You will recognize liars:  when they laugh, they have dimples in their cheeks, and they keep their fingernails closely trimmed... " (Chapter 17)

Having the eyes of a dove means not stopping at the literal meaning of words but knowing how to penetrate their mystical sense. (Chapter 26)

Absence is to love as wind to fire; it extinguishes the little flame, it fans the big. (Chapter 28)

The pleasures of love are pains that become desirable, where sweetness and torment blend, and so love is voluntary insanity, infernal paradise, and celestial hell -- in short, harmony of opposite yearnings, sorrowful laughter, soft diamond. (Chapter 28)

As medicine teaches also about poisons, metaphysics disturbs with inopportune subtleties the dogmata of religion, ethics recommends magnificence (which is not of help to everyone), astrology fosters superstition, optics deceives, music rouses lust, geometry encourages unjust dominion, and mathematics avarice -- so the Art of the Romance, though warning us that it is providing fictions, opens a door into the Palace of Absurdity, and when we have lightly stepped inside, slams it shut behind us. (Chapter 28)

Ferrante cultivated his own mediocrity... , not fearing to be eminent in mediocre things, so as to avoid one day being mediocre in eminent things. (Chapter 29)

The finest qualities lose their glow if displayed too often, and fancy travels farther than sight; even the phoenix resorts to distant habitats to keep its legend alive.  (Chapter 31)

"Knowledge never harms."  "But sometimes it hurts."  (Chapter 31)

the Void is not being, but not being cannot be, ergo the Void cannot be (Chapter 34)

And we, inhabitants of the great coral of the Cosmos, believe the atom (which still we cannot see) to be full matter, whereas, it too, like everything else, is but an embroidery of voids in the Void, and we give the name of being, dense and even eternal, to that dance of inconsistencies, that infinite extension that is identified with absolute Nothingness and that spins from its own non-being the illusion of everything. (Chapter 36)

It (life) is like a storm at sea:  some drown immediately, others are dashed against the rocks, still others are cast up on an abandoned ship, but not for long, not even they.  Life goes out, on its own, like a candle that has consumed its substance.  And we should be accustomed to it, because, like a candle, we have been shedding atoms since the moment we were lit.  (Chapter 36) was short, art long, opportunity instaneous and experiment uncertain... (Chapter 39)

For every feared thing there is an opposing hope that encourages us.


The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else. (Travels in Hyperreality)

I felt like poisoning a monk. (on why he wrote the novel "The Name of the Rose.")

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

Terrorism [is] a biological consequence of the multinationals, just as a day of fever is the reasonable price of an effective vaccine . . . The conflict is between great powers, not between demons and heroes. Unhappy, therefore, is the nation that finds the "heroes" underfoot, especially if they still think in religious terms and involve the population in their bloody ascent to an uninhabited paradise. -- "Striking at the Heart of the State" (1978) from Travels in Hyperreality

In the construction of Immortal Fame you need first of all a cosmic shamelessness. -- "Travels in Hyperreality"

A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. so the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion. 

Better reality than a dream: if something is real, then it's real and you're not to blame. 

Some things you can feel coming. You don't fall in love because you fall in love; you fall in love because of the need, desperate, to fall in love. When you feel that need, you have to watch your step: like having drunk a philter, the kind that makes you fall in love with the first thing you meet. It could be a duck-billed platypus. 

Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry.

Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them. 


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"October," from the 2002 Jewish Art Calendar by Mickie Caspie, copyright © 2002
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