In addition to the book The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco, there is a movie of the same name starring Sean Connery
as Brother William and Christian Slater
as Adso. I mention the (otherwise excellent) movie in connection with the book primarily because of the earlier excellent discussion
concerning the name of the book, which is offered up as an error in translation, as well it might be, though if so it is an interesting error. The movie takes some serious departures from the book (as they tend to in such situations) and (IIRC) ends with the line "...and I never even knew her name." This last is a reference to the girl with whom the young monk Adso has a sexual encounter, and whom he choses to abandon to continue his search for spiritual perfection
. The line also recapitulates the title ("The Name of the Rose
") and leaves one thinking that the name of the rose, and the name/nature of the woman, are the central mystery within the mystery. This I think is no accident (or at least if it is an accident then it is a delightful one) and I wonder if Eco himself had a similar notion with his chosen ending.
For the movie (similar to the book) also critically points out the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the...ah...practice of male love, and reveals the confusion of the monks regarding the worship of a woman who in their theology is blessed above all while real women are perverse and untouchable, fornicators with Satan, the cause for the fall of man. There is a scene where the naked peasant girl, riding atop Adso as they climax, is given a similar cinematic treatment as an earlier shot of the Virgin as a marble statue above the prostrate elder monk, who loves her with his his eyes averted, face against the cold floor. The symbolism could hardly be lost (that is unless one is too busy admiring the actress's admirable performance.)
Having read the book and seen the movie, and appreciated the erudite discussion elsewhere on the topic of the literary name itself, I sense that there is (or could be) more to glean from the title. Is the name of the rose indeed the same thing as the rose itself? Is the Virgin and the lost woman the same in the end or is one more real; one for having been given a holy name and then venerated as an image in stone by a man for all of his adult life, or the other for having simply been carnal with him for a passing moment before meeting the flames and being lost to the world for eternity? And if all we have is the name (or even less, just the scent and the feel) are we able to say we have it still though the thing is lost, nameless, and burnt? It seems to me to speak to the ongoing struggle between the abstract and the physical, idea and reality, stone and flesh, as we have struggled with so many abstractions over the ages, and not always to our profit. The point of the tale seems to be that the naming of the Virgin and carving her in stone did not make her more real than the nameless, lost girl giving her best to a young monk, who is himself to be lost into the church for the rest of his days. For at the end of his life Adso is not clear about what is gained or lost in his lifetime service of God, but he readily confesses that he has never forgotten that one moment of touch, that contact, with the flesh and life of a girl who was to be lost unto the flames of the Inquisition. What they gained, and then pitifully lose, strikes us just as nameless and timeless as purest stone, whatever the shape that stone might take.