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Review

Women, you lost big time!
Book: The Da Vinci Code

By Anoosh Ariapour
December 17, 2003
The Iranian

Men too. Actually, Dan Brown's premise in his novel, The Da Vinici Code, is not new at all and if it can hold any water, the whole humankind lost it to the Founding Fathers of the Christian Church. But, can it be that simple?

First, should this novel also be read as some kind of fictional essay, leaning toward a feminist-New Age narrative? Read it as it is, an "intelligent thriller" as one the blurbs on the back cover states. If you like thrillers and if particularly, you are into light occult, The Knights Templars, Rosicrucians, Freemasons, etc. babble, dabble, scrabble. As a page-turner for the holidays, it is an enjoyable read for many, but "many notch above the intelligent thriller"?

This is where some of the book's intelligence come from: "Many scholars claim that the early church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking His human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power." (P 233).

Nothing new so far, every religion, every non-religious institution jumps to grab more power, it is called the human nature. To unfold such a 'scholarship' into a good thriller, Brown has to have a plot twist every other page, bringing up one riddle after another and bombard us with one conspiracy on top of the last one. Not unlike layers of paint on the famous paintings' visual clichés- he interprets for us. In fact, an army of "researchers" across the Atlantic have their names acknowledged on the first page.

In The Da Vinici Code, people are on a trail to find the Holy Grail, the holiest concept for some and a physical object for the others. But in this book, the search is not for the chalice in which Jesus had his last drink with his disciples and onto which, his blood from the crucifixion was collected. "The quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the lost sacred feminine." (P 257)

In the biggest conspiracy in the human history, the early church fathers, went against Jesus's wish, who wanted his beloved, legal wife, Mary Magdalene (Maryam Majd-ol-elieh) of a royal blood, to continue his ministry. Not only they spread lies about Mary Magdalene to be a whore, but they tried to kill her, who was carrying Jesus's baby at the time of the crucifixion.

To hide the truth, according to people who believe in the story, and it seems their list includes the greatest human minds throughout history, men of the church, with a little help from the Roman empire, almost destroyed eighty other evangelical texts, including that of the Mary Magdalene herself and the diary of Christ.

In 1989, Umberto Eco, the best seller author of The Name of the Rose, published his Foucault's Pendulum. A book at least ten times more intellectual and fifty times more informative than The Da Vinici Code, along the same points of interest. Not being a career fiction writer, professor Eco did not have to pretend to be a scholar. He was one. A great one. Salman Rushdi, to quote a guy who understands the difference between literature and genre writing, wrote this about Foucault's Pendulum: "Reader, I hated it."

I for one, hated myself for spending a few days reading 640 pages of Foucault's Pendulum and enjoying it.

It is thankworthy that Mr. Brown's book is only 454 pages and less interesting.

If the subject matter can be treated in a two-hour movie, which Eco's could not, don't waste my time by hundreds of pages that can be summarized in a ten page essay.

Brown's English, unlike many genre writers, is crisp and deserves credit for making his work a best seller. But common wisdom dictates that it is not the prose and style that create a publishing success story. Readers flock to book stores when: 1- A new book repackages the information they like to hear and they were unaware that existed before. That goes for the fiction too. 2- The information is consistent with their geist and zeitgeist. It is not echolalia per se, like a medical symptom, but it operates on a large scale.

I am even suspicious of our Middle Eastern, daily dosage of low level, survival oriented paranoia to be a psychosis. I think it is downright cultural, sometimes necessary, with its equivalence or counterpart in the West.

I know what you're thinking. The Oxford Medical Dictionary, defines "Neologism", coning of new words, as a medical condition. With this definition, some of our best Iranian thinkers, translators and intellectuals should be institutionalized. But maybe...No, just kidding.

Now, back to The Da Vinici Code: 1- Iconography is a very complex subject, dangerous in the hands of the novice. It is not the same as, nor can it be reduced to popular symbology. 2- It seems that the matriarchal society had lost the "Battle of Sexes" everywhere, long before organized religion, Semitic or otherwise, even started to form. My undocumented guess is, that religion just put the seal of approval on this lose to the womankind.

3- On the face of it, to someone like myself, growing up in a non-Christian society, Catholicism, with its adoration for the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, almost elevated to a cult, seemed to be gentler on women. Even God has to have a mother who wipes his little, cute butt and takes care of him. Or, is this one of those absurd, linguistic riddles that I will never understand to the day I go to my grave?

Maybe it is my own mom who had studied in a Catholic school for a year or two back home and sang 'Silent Night? to us at this time of the year. Having enjoyed centuries of great Western art in the form of the Madonna and Child (the other Madonna) paintings, I assumed women are in a better position in the Christendom. But apparently, I was wrong. The sky is the same color every where.

Author
Anoosh Ariapour is an Iranian born journalist based in Washington DC.

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