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RIP Umberto Eco (1932 – 2016)

The Name of the RoseFoucault's PendulumNumero Zero

Italian novelist and intellectual Umberto Eco has died, aged 84.

Also read: RIP Harper Lee (1926 – 2016)

The author, who had been suffering from cancer, died at his home in Bologna, Italy late on Friday, his family confirmed.

Eco was perhaps best known for his debut novel The Name of the Rose, published in 1980, which sold more than 10 million copies in about 30 languages. It was an unlikely blockbuster; a historical mystery set in the 14th-century in which a friar investigates a series of murders at a monastery.

Eco was born in 1932 in Northern Italy, and studied philosophy, history, literature and educational sciences at the University of Turin. He finished his studies with a doctoral thesis on Thomas Aquinas in 1954, and his first published book was an extension of this work. From 1971 he held the chair of semiotics in the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university, and published more than 20 nonfiction books on his research interests. At the time of his death, he was a professor emeritus at the university, a position that he had held since 2008.

Eco divided his time between an apartment in Milan and a holiday house near Urbino, and was famed for his enormous library: 30 000 volumes in the former and 20 000 in the latter.

Fluent in five modern languages, as well as in Latin and classical Greek, Eco was a celebrity academic, and known for a mischievous sense of humour that served him well in his position as star of both highbrow and popular culture.

I’m not a fundamentalist, saying there’s no difference between Homer and Walt Disney. But Mickey Mouse can be perfect in the sense that a Japanese haiku is.

- Umberto Eco, in a 2002 interview with The Guardian

Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, told local media that Eco was an “extraordinary example of a European intellectual”, who combined a “unique understanding of the past with an inexhaustible ability to anticipate the future”.

“It’s a huge loss for culture, which will miss his writing and voice, his sharp and living thought, his humanity.”

Eco’s most recent book was Numero Zero, published in January 2015.

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Image courtesy of Italy Magazine


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