This infinite passage through violence is what is called history.
Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference
This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don't think it's a marvelous moral; I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. "Intro." to Mother Night
Part I.... and in advance: A General Pardon
Despite the potential repentance implied in the language of his admission in the preface to Travels in Hyperreality that "once in my life, I even wrote a novel (a negligible incident and, in any case, an activity allowed by the constitution of every democratic nation"),(1) in less than ten years, Umberto Eco was to return to the scene of fictional crime and to the crime of fiction. Indeed with his second novel, Foucault's Pendulum, the plot has thickened, moving out of the confines of the Middle Ages and the monastery which were the background for The Name of the Rose. For this work is set in the contemporary world of publishing, and its protagonists amuse themselves with the concoction of a fantastic plan for a trans-centuries' mass conspiracy to establish a new world order, purportedly bringing the telluric currents of the earth under the control of Unknown Superiors. Yet, although the settings of the two works are thus quite different, the site of criminal activity is very similar: that site, the text itself or, more precisely, the parent text--the text that generates the text.
Nevertheless, it is no part of the intention of this paper to accuse the author of literary recidivism. After all, a second lapse into verbal fabrication does not in itself establish a consistent pattern. Eco, the writer, shall, on the basis of his own able defense in the Postscript to The Name of the Rose, be exonerated from implication in whatever blasphemous interpretations and murderous readings may be generated by this new text of his authoring. The grounds he himself suggests for this exoneration are sound. In the Postscript, he divorces the writer/narrator from continued responsibility to (and for) the work, telling us that "a narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would not have written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations."(2) He takes this even further a scant half dozen pages later where he declares: "The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text."
The position is perhaps too extreme for his appreciative readers, however; more in the spirit of Foucault's Pendulum would be to permit the author simply to "disappear" once he has handed on or "handed over" the text. And Eco after all suggests this, too, in the Postscript, "When a work is finished, a dialogue is established between the text and its readers (the author is excluded)" (47). In other words, the manufacturer has no obligation to operate the machine of his own design; he has simply produced it. He has earned his freedom by designing and assembling it; the diabolical uses to which it may be put are up to the licensed and unlicensed operators--namely the readers and interpreters of the text. Moreover, the author can even disappear from the "path," the "trajectory" and the "horizon" of the work with a clear conscience, for surely a novel has rarely more meticulously contained so explicit an operator's manual for its readers or had the "Warning" and "Caution" notices writ so large on its pages.
There is a distinct contrast in what could be seen as the metatextuality of the two works in question. In the case of The Name of the Rose such explicit warnings and cautions were held in reserve for the subsequent Postscript. There the author speaks of a writer's desire "to force empirical readers to become the model readers he yearned for" (50).(3) Speaking in what we may, perhaps justifiably, assume to be his own (author's) voice, Eco asks the question. "What model reader did I want as I was writing? An accomplice to be sure, one who would play my game" (52). But such a reader cannot be prefabricated, being largely created by the process of reading the text itself. Regarding the intention of The Name of the Rose, he tells us that:
with all my might, I wanted to create a type of reader who, once the initiation was past, would become my prey---or, rather, the prey of the text--and would think he wanted nothing but what the text was offering him. A text is meant to be an experience of transformation for its reader. (53)
Accordingly the author, through his text, may work with the expectations of the reader, but with the intention of transmuting them and joining them with his own.
Nevertheless, even this would fall short of the ideal, for such readers would simply be sharing what the author has provided, yet without recognizing the way in which they have been tempted into doing so. What is postulated in the Postscript, therefore, is ever more conscious readers who would become aware even of the process of their own entrapment. Who, though they might initially resist the machinations of the plot, even deny it, saying "'But all this is false; I refuse to accept it!'," would eventually succumb and to such a degree that the author may address them thus:
And at this point you will …