The Name of the Rose & The Abbey of Crime (An Adaptation)

The Name of the Rose & The Abbey of Crime (An Adaptation)

When I originally conceived this blog I knew that this was going to be one of those entries that I’d write down sooner or later. It is one of the early examples I recall of an adaptation of a book that planted the seed of curiosity and the desire to find out about the source.

In the early 90s when I was around eight or ten years old (apologies if the memory is somewhat fuzzy) we had an Amstrad Computer with two disc slots and hundreds of games (Alley Cat, Livingstone, Vulture, Superman, Double Dragon, just to name those that I played the most), but if I had to highlight one of the games that really caused an impression it’d had to be “La Abadía del Crimen” or in English “The Abbey of Crime”.

This game was fascinating and it looked amazing –still does considering it was published in 1987–. The title screen was mesmerizing and it always managed to get me in the right mood. The plot could be summarized quite easily: two monks (Guillermo of Occam and his novice Adso) arrive to an abbey to investigate a murder. It begins with the scroll down narration of Adso, now an old man writing the events, and immediately surprises with an isometric look that was revolutionary for its time and that no other games had attempted back then. It just immerses the player within the walls of the abbey.

The game is anything but simple. It is based on exploration, trial and error and strictly fixed timelines that have to be met religiously (Tu Dum Da!) otherwise you risk expulsion from the abbey. It has no clear instructions and, even if you manage to complete the story, I wish you the best of luck reaching that 100% completion rate. I’d highly recommend it for those wanting a good fix of nostalgia and an extremely challenging game.

Look at those glorious Amstrad graphics! But don’t get distracted and stand in the right spot, otherwise that Obsequium bar is going down.

I want to take a small detour to talk a bit about one of its creators, Francisco Menendez. He was born in Asturias and was a wonder boy of the late eighties game industry boom in Spain. He was a visionary and it took him and his team fourteen months to complete the game, unfortunately after joining the game developer Opera he grew discontent with the entire process and the excessive emphasis on marketing rather than game creation. He left video games and shifted his focus on a project he labelled Intelligent Memory Matrix (PALOMA) based on the idea that memory could be used not only to store data but also to execute commands at the same time. Sadly, he committed suicide at age 34 in 1999. This post is dedicated to his memory. Detour over.

Prior to those fourteen months of development, and after having read the book “The Name of the Rose” he contacted the book’s author Umberto Eco. He tried to explain the idea of the computer game and his vision but, not understanding the concept pitched, Umberto Eco did not allow him to use the name of the novel, and hence the game was titled “The Abbey of Crime” which had been the working title of the novel before settling on “The Name of the Rose”. The main story of the game is pretty much what is in the book, but beside the title change and the surname of the main character being changed from Baskerville (nod, nod, wink, wink) to Occam, this is as faithful as an adaptation gets.

I’m pretty sure that there is plenty of material regarding the adaptation of a book into a movie but I think that it’d be a fairly accurate guess saying that, in comparison, the amount of materials  touching on the adaptation of a book into a computer game is minuscule; and taking into account the technology in the 80s I honestly think that this game is a miracle and it well deserves its cult classic status.

I want to keep my nostalgia glasses on for this article, so I’ll avoid talking about the movie because I only saw it many years later in college. I did have an “experience” with the movie as a kid, -alright I’ll indulge you with my random anecdotes- when my parents, out on holiday, called our summer-house where my brothers and I were staying with our grandmother to make sure that “under no circumstance we should watch that movie”. Needless to say we watched it in one of the two TVs we had.  The only thing that I remember from itwas seeing a boob for the first time on TV. Good times. I will not talk any more about the movie, but I’ll give you a ranking between book, game and movie in terms of my preference: Book first, the game second, the movie third.

Spanish book cover: simple and effective.

I put the book first because after all the build-up and wonder that the game ignited in my innocent mind “The Name of the Rose” had become associated with forbidden. I read it when I was a teenager following my history assignment mandatory reading of “The Pillars of the Earth” which, as you can obviously imagine, made me get my medieval freak on -and as you may remember from previous posts that was a time when reading was not a priority-. “The Name of the Rose” gives bestsellers a good name. It was published in 1980 and  it is Umberto Eco’s debut novel. (Random Trivia: apparently Umberto Eco had a list of titles for the novel, one was “The Alley of Crime”, the other “Adso of Melk” but all the people he spoke with preferred “The Name of The Rose”). It is smart, gripping, wonderfully written, atmospheric and just perfect. I could see every single image in my head as I moved along and there are not enough good things that I can say about it.  Just read it.

[Tangent]I was just thinking that this is just a great example of how video games can actually help to develop curiosity and how they can introduce kids to literature. I was also thinking about other books that I’m interested in reading because I played the video game and I could only think of two: “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and “Metro 2033” by Dmitry Glukhovsky –oddly enough both of them in Russian– so next time you badmouth videogames look how they can stimulate curiosity. [/Tangent]

Just to prove my last point,and if this post has sparked your curiosity, you can download the game here in English from the official site of the game developers. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did: and if you just want to take a look without the effort (you lazy bastard!). Full playthrough:

“Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemos.”


Instrumental by James Rhodes

Instrumental by James Rhodes is an odd reading choice for me. It is in fact one which I had not planned to make – but that is the thing with Christmas gifts -. Oddly enough, despite the fact that it was not a purchase I made (I always  do a bit of research to avoid something that will not be my cup of tea), my boss had previously recommended it with a warning on some of the subject matter in it.  I did point out on my “A Confederacy of Dunces” review how unusual it is for me to read something that has not been adapted to another form, well,  let me assure you that reading a book that is on the shelves of most decent sized bookshops is equally unusual – if not more -. I was also trying to think of any other autobiographies that I’ve read but I think that this is the first one.

Cover of the Spanish Edition

A quick summary for those that do not know who James Rhodes is. He is a pianist trying to make classical music more accessible for younger generations by moving away  from the elitism associated with it. He was raped for many years since age five and this caused him tremendous damage both psychologically and physically, issues with drugs, alcoholism, suicide, self-inflicted cuts. Thankfully with loving friends, family, a lot of luck and classical music he managed to deal with most of these issues.

This book is about his life. Every chapter is titled with the name of a musical piece by different famous composers (begins and ends with Bach’s Goldberg variations). All the chapters have a  one page intro on that particular piece, why he chose it, the history behind it, and they are followed by the events that shaped him. The author does mention that, in his concerts, he enjoys talking about the different choices he makes before playing them and how the feedback from the attendants is always very positive and even welcomed. I’m glad that he adapted this routine to a book format  – just instead of playing, writing about his life – and I look forward to listening to some of his recommendations.

At the end of the book he discusses the difficulties trying to get it published. I can clearly see why. He doesn’t shy away from the details and the impact all those horrible things had on him, his family, friends and his son.  It truly felt like someone trying to deal with really difficult issues with as much honesty as possible, and I’m glad that it never feels exploitative or gimmicky or like he is trying to play an angle. This reads like an exorcism. A man dealing with his demons and telling his story.

For a few seconds I’ve hesitated about giving my personal thoughts on him, but quite frankly even if this is my blog, I don’t think I should pass judgment. I’m so far from the experiences that James Rhodes has been through that giving a personal opinion on the man itself would feel tacky and wrong.

I’m glad that there are stories about the power of music and love and how they can save your life. I finished reading this book the 30th of January 2017.