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Long before Dan Brown had dreamed up the “symbologist” that Tom Hanks would play on screen, Umberto Eco had written The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, novels that play with semiotics without the clumsy plot twists, hackish narrative, or made-for-Hollywood dialogue that litters The Da Vinci Code. In those first two books, Eco’s characters find themselves up against mysterious conspiracies at every turn, whether they’re inventing conspiracy theories that come to life and bite back (as in Foucault’s Pendulum) or stumbling onto nefarious hidden plots (as in The Name of the Rose). In Eco’s newest novel, The Prague Cemetery, to be published in the U.S. on Nov. 8, there’s more of the same. But here, there’s a twist: Every character except the main villain is an actual historical figure; that villain, a fictional forger and all-around creep, invents the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as part of the various political and financial intrigues roiling late-19th century Europe. Eco will discuss the book with novelist Keith Donohue; no word on whether he’ll be toting a fish in his luggage on this book tour, as he did in the title essay for 1995’s How to Travel With a Salmon. The discussion begins at 7 p.m. at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. $12 in advance, $15 at door, or two tickets free with purchase of book at Politics & Prose Bookstore. (202) 408-3100. (Mike Madden)
WCP jazz critic Mike West is rah-rah about tonight’s Miguel Zenón concert, which is part of the Atlas’ new series of jazz concerts. In an interview, the alto saxophonist describes his interest in Puerto Rican music:
I have to say that the fact that I did a couple records on that subject wasn’t really planned that way. It’s kinda just been happening as I get more into it and find more things that I want to go deeper into. They kind of turn into projects themselves, just because I spend a lot of time listening to the music, and researching and reading and talking to people about it. But yeah, I mean, it’s sorta what I am now, though I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be on this road. I don’t think it will be forever but it’s definitely the road I’m on now.
Trombone Shorty, the New Orleans bandleader who’s appeared on HBO’s Treme, is at the 9:30 Club. $25.
Pin-up-evoking, rockabilly-ish Texas trio Girl in a Coma is at DC9, but the real treat is openers The Coathangers, the Atlanta all-female punk group that’s deep in the Slits/Raincoats pocket, which has never been a terrible thing. 8 p.m. $12.
In addition to the many ongoing exhibitions, the annual photography festival has lectures every night. This evening’s offerings include a discussion with the artists Muriel Hasbun and Pablo Ortiz Monasterio at the Corcoran—-they’re discussing their collaborative project “Conversación”—-and another with Kay Chernush at the Georgetown Apple Store, where she’ll discuss her work documenting human trafficking.
Politics & Prose is showing off its new on-demand book-printing machine, Opus, with a demonstration at 7 p.m. Free.