Appalled? Amazed? Astonished? Dismayed? How does this piece of news make you feel?: Bompiani, Umberto Eco’s publishers, have just announced the publication on October 5 of a simplified version of his best-selling historical thriller The Name of the Rose (1980)… simplified by the author himself to make it more accessible to new readers. The article in El Mundo’s supplement El Cultural includes a variety of opinions by Spanish authors and publishers which gathers all possible reactions (https://www.elcultural.es/noticias/LETRAS/1961/Rebajas_en_la_novela_historica). My own is that this is a very serious mistake but, then, not so different from what we do in the Literature classes.

I myself read El nombre de la rosa in my pre-university (or COU) year and was, like everyone else, riveted by it. I was BY NO MEANS the only one in my course to read it, and I attended a public secondary education school… I remember discussing it with my brilliant Spanish Literature teacher, Sara Freijido and with some of my peers. I’m sure we missed more than 50% of Eco’s sophisticated intellectual scaffolding and just connected with his singular detective story but I’m also sure that we were stimulated by the challenge he posed rather than put off. What Eco is now formally acknowledging is that the pleasure in that challenge has been lost for the newer generations. To be honest, second and third readings of Rose may result in the scaffolding being quite irritating in its density, not always justified, but this should have solved in the first edition. Logically, authors have the right to do as they wish with their work and second editions may very well include substantial cuts. What is disarming in this case is that whatever Eco has done to his masterpiece has been done to pander to tastes downgraded by the book market and decaying educational standards rather than to improving The Name of the Rose for the sake of Literature.

If you’re a younger reader beginning to hate me for my smugness and that of my generation, I must point out that it is not my intention to look down on you. You’re not to blame, after all, for the serious flaws in your education, as you haven’t designed it. You should, however, reject this second, simplified Rose, as an insult to your intelligence –which is the same as that in any other generation– and demand the original book (and that we teach you to read it, if you have difficulties). If you’re in English Literature I’m sure you’ve gone through a number of those awful abridged versions of the classics and know now, when you’re reading the real thing, what a paltry thing they are. Just don’t let greedy publishers and authors convince you that you’re not good enough for anything else.

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