Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose is a gripping medieval whodunnit but also a plea for humanity and humour over extremes of piety and earnestness. This advice to the young Adso sums up the dangers of any ideology taken too far and too earnestly – in this case leading to a justification for murder. And his stark warning to beware those who are too ready to die for the truth, particularly given that they are often equally willing to have others die with, or instead of, them.
And the closing comment struck me as being the perfect mission statement for the fools of the world.
‘The Antichrist can be born from piety itself, from excessive love of God or of the truth, as the heretic is born from the saint and the possessed from the seer. Fear prophets, Adso, 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 …
‘Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh.’
Source: Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, trans. by William Weaver (London: Secker and Warburg, 1983; repr. London: Pan Books, 1984), p. 491