It is April 1204, and Constantinople, the splendid capital of the Byzantine Empire, is being sacked and burned by the knights of the Fourth Crusade. Amid the carnage and confusion, one Baudolino saves a historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.
Born a simple peasant in northern Italy, Baudolino has two major giftsa talent for learning languages and a skill in telling lies. When still a boy he meets a foreign commander in the woods, charming him with his quick wit and lively mind. The commanderwho proves to be Emperor Frederick Barbarossaadopts Baudolino and sends him to the university in Paris, where he makes a number of fearless, adventurous friends.
Spurred on by myths and their own reveries, this merry band sets out in search of Prester John, a legendary priest-king said to rule over a vast kingdom in the Easta phantasmagorical land of strange creatures with eyes on their shoulders and mouths on their stomachs, of eunuchs, unicorns, and lovely maidens.
As always with Eco, this abundant novel includes dazzling digressions, outrageous tricks, extraordinary feeling, and vicarious reflections on our postmodern age. This is Eco the storyteller at his brilliant best.
The hero of this phenomenal puzzler is one Baudolino, an inveterate liar, poet, and adventurer, whose charm and wit win him the favor of Frederick Barbarossa. Seeing a brilliant counsellor in the making (which he sorely needs), Frederick adopts him and packs him off to study in Paris, where, hunkered down with his drunken and licentious cronies, Baudolino weaves a grand, shimmering tale of a priest-king called Prester John, whose extraordinary purlieu is populated by beauteous maidens and beasts of every description. True or false? Baudolino and his band set out in the middle of the Third Crusade to find out. In this whimsical yet deadly earnest tale, Eco puts forth the question that perpetually beguiles him and with which he beguiles the rest of us: If a teller of tales tells us he's telling the truth, how can we know for sure what really happened?