As with most of Eco’s books, it is impossible to place Baudolino in any one category or genre. It’s a novel which delves into history, mythology, metaphyisical speculation and mystery all wrapped up in Gulliver’s Travels-esque adventure. So as usual, this book is an intellectual romp of fancy and whim marked by its sheer cleverness, wit, and depth/breadth of scholarly knowledge seamlessly woven together into one story.
Baudolino is a peasant during the High Middle Ages in northern Italy. A cleaver boy with a knack for languages, he is adopted by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, in Italy as part of his intermittent attempts to suborn the thriving city-states of Italy. Baudolino get caught up in a series of adventures ranging from city sieges, to getting Charlemagne declared a saint, to forgery of letters and relics.
It’s a hard book to justice by in a review. I love it because it revels in history, both the events, but the people, the mythology, the ideas, the ideologies. Eco frolics in the fantasies of the 13th century mind, relishes the kaleidoscope of christian heresies and interpretations, and lovingly mixes historical fact with fiction in a way that seems to truely respect the actual history.
It be honest, Bauldolino is the least of three Eco books I have read so far, but it was still quite enjoyable.