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The Name of the Rose was a huge sensation when it was published in 1980 and translated to English by William Weaver in 1983, going on to sell more than 50 million copies, inspire a blockbuster starring Sean Connery, and win many international literary prizes. It was an improbable reception for a novel written by an Italian semiotician and philosopher. But the secret to its success was in Umberto Eco’s rich telling of this medieval mystery about a Franciscan friar whose visit to a northern Italian monastery quickly shifts from theological to investigative after a sudden and gruesome death. As Eco’s story unfolds in a detailed, 14th-century setting, layers of puzzles and literary mysteries are revealed to lie at its core. —Lucas Wittmann

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