In this final chapter we will try to arrive at some sort of synthesis of the threads of argumentation running through the preceding sections. The theme of library as an embodiment of intertextuality will be once more picked up. The analysis of common motives carried out in the preceding chapters will be used in order to show that the three texts, "La Biblioteca de Babel", The British Museum and Il nome della rosa, can be interpreted as having a similar vision of the nature of fictions and their relation to reality and to other texts. This vision is pretty much the same as the one espoused by intertextually-oriented theories of literature, sketched in chapter 1.
It is no accident that one of the first intertextually conscious texts, Don Quijote, features an important episode at the beginning when the contents of Quijote's library are scrutinized. The priest and the barber examine the books of chivalry that became an alternative reality for the protagonist and condemn most of them to fire (Cervantes 1995: 59-64). In a novel dealing mainly with other books a library is a quite natural setting.
The textual libraries we have been looking at are full of voices. The texts dialog between themselves, comment on each other and quote each other. The voices are multiple and multilingual. In "The Library of Babel" the books use every conceivable language and are for the most part babelically unintelligible. A epitomic book is written in "un dialecto samoyedo-lituano del guaraní, con inflexiones de árabe clásico" (a Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with classical Arabian inflections) (F: 93). The intertextual dialog in Library-Universe is rather futile. This library already contains every possible permutation of the letters of alphabet. It is a static universe: all discourse is just the repetition of what is already written somewhere. New texts cannot come to being out of the intercourse of other texts because new texts are an impossibility; they are just clones of already existing books. "La Biblioteca de Babel" is a library dystopia and it is a universe dystopia.
In Il nome della rosa the vision is less pessimistic. The library is, at least potentially, a more dynamic, evolving structure. Jorge da Burgos, who seems to share the static vision of knowledge inferable from Borges, tries to convert the library into a guardian of secrets. His idea is that all the books are to be simply stored and the orthodox ones reproduced. He knows that creative intertextual exchange of ideas and elaboration of venerable topics dealt with by the auctoritas pose a danger for the existing power relationships. He does all he can to prevent the library from abolishing the status quo - and this very effort of his is an implicit acknowledgement of the creative potential of the library and of intertextuality. Adso also perceives this potential. The multilingual and multicultural diversity of the library is fascinating - but also disconcerting (Gritti 1991: 105). When William explains to him his idea that books refer to other books as much as they refer to extratextual reality (see section 3.4.) it scares him a little because it seems to do away with the importance of the human subject. The library seems to use the scholars for its own ends.
La biblioteca mi parve ancora più inquietante. Era dunque il luogo di un lungo e secolare susurro, di un dialogo impercettibile tra pergamena e pergamena, una cosa viva, un ricettacolo di potenze non dominabili da una mente umana, tesoro dei segreti emanati da tante menti, e sopravissuti alla morte di coloro che li avevano prodotti, o se ne erano fatti tramite.
(The library seemed to me even more disturbing. It was, then, the place of a long and ancient whisper, of an imperceptible dialog between a parchment and a parchment, a living thing, a receptacle of powers impossible to master for a human mind, a treasury of the secrets emanated by so many minds, which have survived the death of those who had produced them, or who were their medium) (NR: 289)
This passage is a perfect illustration of what are the implications of the intertextual focus on literature and on culture in general. The texts become as if independent of human beings who produce them - people are only instruments in the process of discourse constructing itself. Libraries are then places of discourse gestation, they seem to be living things feeding on human minds.
As evident from the quotes in section 2.5. Adam Appleby would quite willingly become food for the library. He craves to be automated, he wants his thesis to write itself. So far his dissertation has only succeeded in producing a large collection of file cards but has failed to arrange itself in the correct order. So far it has remained a virtual thesis rather that a fully developed tentacle of self-propagating discourse.
The British Museum speaks with others' voices just like Il nome della rosa does. They are mostly the voices of modernist texts mentioned in the introduction, but also other unacknowledged ones such as Borges. The novel mocks some of them and emulates others, striving to appropriate all. Intertextuality is operative here as much as in any other: books talk about other books and they also talk between themselves. But in The British Museum the implications of the intertextual theory that result in the obliteration of the human subject are put to a comic use. Adam's thesis does not propagate itself just as it should, and the rather awesome archetypal library from Borges and Eco here is a source of much comic imagery. One such scene is the apocalyptic scene in the fire-menaced library (see section 3.3.), which seems to be a mocking anticipation of the fire episode in Eco. A comic twist is also given to what goes on in the North Library. It is a kind of inner sanctuary, parallel to finis Africae, where especially valuable or dangerous (i.e. pornographic) books are kept. Adam and his friend Camel are not really keen on this place.
They did not usually work there: it was overheated, and its low rectangular shape and green furnishings gave one the sense of being in an aquarium for tropical fish. The North Library was used especially for consulting rare and valuable books, and there were also a number of seats reserved for the exclusive use of eminent scholars, who enjoyed the privilege of leaving their books on their desks for indefinite periods. These desks were rarely occupied except by piles of books and cards bearing distinguished names, and they reminded Adam of a waxworks from which all the exhibits had been withdrawn for renovation. (BM: 46)
In this travesty of finis Africae the intertextual dialog that is supposed to fill libraries seems to be a bit constipated. Like in the intertextual literary theory scholars - the writing subjects - are obliterated. They are waxwork exhibits in renovation. And their role is taken up by card-bearing piles of books. In Eco the library worries Adso; it seems alive and uncontrollable to him. In the above passage from Lodge the impression is of ridicule and deadness.
The philosopher Daniel Dennett confesses his mixed feelings when, even before they appeared in print form, he found that his ideas on "The Self as the Centre of Narrative Gravity" have already been parodied in a David Lodge novel Nice Work (Dennett 1991: 410-411). In some respects The British Museum is Falling Down, apart from echoing anterior texts � the literary tradition - is a parody of many motives that fifteen years later appear in Il nome della rosa. In the "Naturalmente, un manuscritto" chapter we read that "si danno altresì visioni di libri non ancora scritti" (visions happen of books not yet written) (NR: 13). Apparently, there also happen parodies of books not yet written. And this fact might be interpreted as an ironic confirmation of the radical implications of intertextuality: there is no author carefully selecting a source text and equally carefully parodying or otherwise transforming it. There are fragments of discourse freely circulating between brains and between books. They enter multiple dialogs, are transformed and crossed-over, to reemerge in future generations of texts.
If we adopt this point of view, then we can try to extracts some such discourse fragments from the three texts dealt with in the preceding chapters. Some of them would correspond to the common motives isolated in chapter 3. The library, the labyrinth, fire, the manuscript, the girl � these are elements that tend to appear and reappear with one another. They may have developed a sort of co-adaptation to reproduce together in the environment of literary text.
In spite of the recurrence of these motives in the three texts, and in spite of their connections with the important common theme of intertextuality, "La Biblioteca" Il nome and The Museum are all rather different as to how they see and present the operation of intertextuality. In Borges it is an infinite, overwhelming and bleak nightmare. In Eco it is a fascinating and disturbing process going on inside the mysterious labyrinth of the library and the equally mysterious labyrinth of the world. In Lodge it seems to be something inevitable and at the same time inevitably comic. The library stands for many things, and one of the things it stands for - intertextuality - is an ambiguous phenomenon. But in all cases the confines of the library are a perfectly suited terrain to explore the intricacies of fiction, reality and textuality.
The present study has some obvious limitations. The most important one is its restricted scope. While it was necessary to limit the range of texts dealt with in order to be able to study them in reasonable detail, few generalizations are feasible on the basis of three texts only. Also the presentation of the theoretical framework has been limited to the minimum in order to provide space for the actual analysis of texts. It follows that in order to substantiate the paper's claims, or alternatively to disprove them, a more inclusive study would be necessary.
In the process of preparing the present thesis another interesting area of research emerged. It turned out that there are striking similarities between the way in which intertextual process is described by literary theorist and the way information transmission and cultural evolution is talked about by cognitive scientist, evolutionists or philosophers with a scientific bent. Both groups also happen to use the library metaphor to illustrate their ideas: compare Adso's description of the library as a living thing making use of human minds (in the preceding section) with Dennett's words: "A scholar is just a library's way of making another library" (1991: 202). He uses this phrase as a slogan illustrating that memes (units of cultural transmission, analogous to genes in genetic transmission) evolve independently of their hosts. This is reminiscent of the assertions about the obliteration of the writing subject made by Kristeva or Barthes. These correspondences may prove a promising area of study. In fact some of these common ideas have already been traced by meme researchers (see Gatherer 1997) but the complementary interest seems to be lacking in literary theorists - in spite of the cross-fertilizing dialog that such an interest might initiate.