Baudolino was translated into English in 2001 by William Weaver. The novel presented a number of particular difficulties in translation, not the least of which is that there are ten or so pages written in a made-up language that is a mixture of Latin, medieval Italian, and other languages.
His story begins in 1155, when Baudolino is sold to and adopted by the emperor Frederick I. At court and on the battlefield, he is educated in reading and writing Latin and learns about the power struggles and battles of northern Italy at the time. He is sent to Paris to become a scholar.
In Paris, he gains friends (such as the Archpoet, Robert de Boron, and Kyot, the purported source of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival), and learns about the legendary kingdom of Prester John. From this event onward, Baudolino dreams of reaching this fabled land. On a long journey, encompassing 25 years, Eco demonstrates the full width of his story-telling style. Baudolino meets eunuchs, unicorns, Blemmyes, skiapods, and pygmies. At one point, a female satyr-like creature recounts to him the full Gnostic creation myth; Gnosticism is a pervasive presence in another of Eco's novels, Foucault's Pendulum. Philosophical debates are mixed with comedy, epic adventure and creatures drawn from the strangest medieval bestiaries.
|Various strange characters figuring in the novel as rendered in the Nuremberg Chronicles. These creatures and many others were all described and named by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historiæ from 77 AD: A monopod and a satyr (top); a blemmyae and a panotti (above).|
Making history out of fabrication ; Baudolino. By Umberto Eco.Translated by William Weaver.Secker & Warburg, 512pp. (pounds) 18
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