The great Umberto Eco died on Friday, the 19th of February, at the age of 84. The news took us all by surprise and, personally, I was stunned to learn of his age. Silly as it may sound, I thought (as I do, in some cases did, regarding my parents, uncles and aunts) that he was in his early 60's and would continue to be in his early sixties, regaling us with his lovely smile, humour, insights, and writings for many many many years to come. Alas, that will no longer be the case. We published a blog post on Umberto Eco in 2014, but today we'd like remember this great Italian mind with a series of articles, podcasts and a video, starting with the Guardian's obituary, a blog post published by Kay Wallace in La Repubblica's English language Blog, Aldo Grasso's piece on Eco published in La Repubblica, and finally Desmond O'Grady's article on Eco published in the Australian Financial Review:
Umberto Eco obituary
Italian writer and philosopher known for his medieval whodunnit The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco, who has died aged 84, was a polymath of towering cleverness. His novels, which occasionally had the look and feel of encyclopedias, combined cultural influences ranging from TS Eliot to the Charlie Brown comic-strips. Linguistically technical, they were at once impishly humorous and robustly intellectual. For relaxation, Eco played Renaissance airs on the recorder, and read dictionaries (he was a master of several foreign languages).
Eco’s first, watershed novel, The Name of the Rose, was published in 1980. An artful reworking of Conan Doyle, with Sherlock Holmes transplanted to 14th-century Italy, the book’s baggage of arcane erudition was designed to flatter the average reader’s intelligence. In some ways, as Eco was the first to admit, his medieval whodunnit was upmarket Arthur Hailey with ingenious modernist fripperies. Subsequently translated into 30 languages, it sold more than 10m copies worldwide, and was made into a film starring Sean Connery as the monk-detective, William of Baskerville.
Not since One Hundred Years of Solitude had there been such a consensual success in the book market. Joggers in Central Park listened to The Name of the Rose on their Walkmans. Eco’s gifted English translator, William Weaver, built an extension on to his Tuscan home with the proceeds (which he called the Eco chamber).
Yet the success of The Name of the Rose weighed heavily on Eco. When the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud released his film of the novel in 1986, Eco refused to speak to the newspapers about it. Each night when he returned to his flat in Milan he said he could “barely open the door” for the accumulation of interview requests. In private, Eco judged Annaud’s film a travesty of his novel, and found the monks (apart from the one played by Connery) “too grotesque-looking”. Yet Eco approved of Annaud’s Piranesi-like sets, which he concurred were “marvellous”.
In late 1986, when I visited Eco at Bologna University, where he taught as professor of semiotics, an abstruse branch of literary theory, he appeared unsettled, and confessed that he felt “trapped” by his fame. Shuffling grumpily round his office, he lifted up and slammed down books. He was wearing a tweed deerstalker and a large digital wristwatch-cum-calculator.
Italian Vogue had just claimed that Eco was writing a novel based on the life of Mozart. “Not true! I feel blackmailed by journalists, by myself, by my publisher. I don’t feel free any more. When I wrote The Name of the Rose it was half for fun – a free act. Now I ask myself: ‘Am I writing a new book because I want to, or because it’s expected of me?’” Eco was a polite, if oddly formal interviewee (“May I be permitted to offer you another whisky?”); he preferred to call his English, spoken with a discernible American accent, “fluent pidgin”.
Bologna University had been a hotbed of Italian red activism, and the philosophy faculty, where Eco had his office, was often spray-gunned with political slogans and crude attempts at action painting. Eco was not impressed by the artwork. “The graffiti isn’t as witty as it was in the 60s,” he complained. Nevertheless, Bologna provided Eco with invaluable first-hand experience of political extremism and conspiracy.
His second novel, Foucault’s Pendulum (1988), was a thriller set amid shadowy cabals and conventicles such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucian Society. Eco saw modern-day political parallels with these and other sects; indeed, the P2 masonic lodge and the far-left fringe of the Red Brigades indulged a similar secrecy and fanaticism. Eco was fond of the Italian term dietrologia, which translates, not very happily, into “behindology” and presumes that secret cliques, camarillas and consortia are everywhere manipulating political scandals. In all his work, fiction and non-fiction, Eco displayed a classically Italian enthusiasm for conspiracy and arcana.
Though Foucault’s Pendulum offered a splendidly macabre denouement (with a principal character left hanging from a pendulum devised to demonstrate the rotation of the earth), the novel was reckoned to be rather too long, with opaque stretches. Reviewing it for the Observer, Salman Rushdie confessed: “Reader, I hated it.”
Many wondered where Eco would go next. His third novel, The Island of the Day Before (1994), was written to strict literary formulae and contained more scholastic hair-splitting and arcane erudition. Overall, it read like an exercise in style, with the accent on formal composition, rather than feeling and expression.
Son of Giovanna (nee Bisio) and Giulio Eco, he was born in Alessandria, a small city in the north-western Italian region of Piedmont. His father came from a family of 13 children and was an accountant in a local metalworks factory. Eco spent his formative years in the Piedmont capital of Turin, where he graduated from the university in 1954 in medieval philosophy and literature. His first published book, The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas (1956), was written during the author’s military service. It was an elegant examination of the principal aesthetic ideas of medieval Latin civilisation.
Already, the young Eco saw the world as a web of signs and symbols waiting to be deciphered. His passion for medieval culture strengthened over the years, and later he gleefully decoded what he called “the avalanche of pseudo-medieval pulp” books and strip-cartoons such as Camelot 3,000 and The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian. No text or film was ever too lowly or trivial that it could not be analysed semiotically.
On leaving university, Eco worked in Milan for several years as a journalist, editing cultural programmes for Italy’s state-owned RAI television network. In 1959 he became senior non-fiction editor for the Milan-based publisher Bompiani, a position he held until 1975.
In Milan, Eco mingled with avant-garde writers, musicians and painters, and developed a love for late James Joyce, as well as the atonal asperities of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the hermetic symbolist verse of Stéphane Mallarmé. The fierce inaccessibility of these modernist works seemed to excite Eco. And in the autumn of 1963, with some like-minded experimentalists, he helped to set up Group 63, a cultural association which rejected “conservatism” in the arts and aimed to produce ultra-modern novels and poems of its own. Group 63’s literary efforts now look slightly prolix and pedantic; but Eco, to his credit, understood early on that a fiction without a story was not worth its weight in paper. His novels would not have gone on to become bestsellers otherwise.
In 1966, Eco was appointed professor of semiotics at Milan Polytechnic, and two years later, in 1968, he brought out The Absent Structure, which accompanied his earlier text, The Open Book (1962), as a classic of the genre. His cultural writings began to appear in a variety of national publications; the Italian public came to know Eco through his witty weekly column, La Bustina di Minerva, for L’Espresso magazine.
Collections of the column were later published in English as Faith in Fakes, Travels in Hyperreality (1986) and How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays (1994). In these books, Eco’s interests veered from pre-Raphaelite forgeries to counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags, from the World Cup to the US porn star and vice-presidential candidate Marilyn Chambers. This is what Eco did best: applying literary judgment to ephemera.
In 1971, Eco became the first professor of semiotics at Bologna, Europe’s oldest university. Bologna is the undisputed gastro-erotic heart of Italy, and Eco relished the city’s rich cuisine as well as its lewd medieval street names (via Fregatette, “Rub-Tits Street”, was one of his favourites). Portly, with a great black beard and husky voice (the result of 60 cigarettes a day, in later years reduced to the occasional cigar), he was a lifelong trencherman.
His lectures at the university, avidly attended by semioticians, analysed the James Bond novels, the Mad comic magazines and, with equal fizz-bang, photographs of Marilyn Monroe. Throughout his Bologna professorship, Eco denied that he was “intellectually slumming it” by speaking of Donatello’s David in the same breath as, say, plastic garden furniture.
When the entire world is a web of signs, he said, everything cries out for exegesis. Marginal manifestations of culture should not be ignored, he explained: in the 19th century, Telemann was considered a far greater composer than Bach; by the same token, in 200 years, Picasso may be thought inferior to Coca Cola commercials. (And who knows, Eco added jokingly, one day we may consider The Name of the Rose inferior to the potboilers of Harold Robbins.)
In his mandarin analysis of the outwardly mundane, Eco was influenced by the French essayist and counterculture guru Roland Barthes. However, while Barthes wrote about washing powder, Greta Garbo’s face, or the new model Citroen in a subtle, teasingly paradoxical style, Eco’s essays showed a certain crude braggadocio and swagger; in Italy, he was not always considered a writer of very distinguished literary prose. (I myself observed that his mind worked like a kitchen blender: “In go a dash of Thomas Aquinas, a pinch of Borges, some diced semiotics and – presto! – out pours an ‘interesting’ essay’.”) Eco was at his best when composing bookish parodies and spoof sequels to famous novels. (In one of these, the narrator of Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu dies in Dublin after reading Joyce’s Ulysses and drinking too much Guinness.)
Italian university professors are expected to enter public debate, and Eco did not disappoint. “Journalism,” he announced with characteristic self-confidence, “is my political duty.” Furthermore: “I believe it is my job as a scholar and citizen to show people how we are surrounded by messages.” In this, Eco was not so different from other campus media commentators, such as Susan Sontag and Marshall McLuhan. Like them, he could sometimes appear pseudo-cerebral. In one essay, Eco discussed the figure-hugging comfort of his own denim Levi’s. “Well, with my new jeans life was entirely exterior: I thought about the relationship between me and my pants, and the relationship between my pants and the society I live in … I had achieved epidermic self-awareness.”
Eco’s fourth novel, Baudolino, which appeared in Italy in 2000, was set in Byzantine Constantinople. An enjoyable quest-story, it was freighted with the author’s by now familiar typographical eccentricities, footnotes, numerological games and inventories. The book was a great success in Italy, though some critics enviously objected that Eco had sold out to fame. In the days before he became the emperor of international bestsellerdom, he wrote a sneering critique of the 007 novels in which Ian Fleming emerged as a high-end Mickey Spillane, cynically devising entertainments for a reading public both “popular and serious”. Yet Baudolino, not unlike The Name of the Rose, appealed to a remarkably similar readership. Whatever his merits as a novelist, Eco was an exceptionally shrewd self-promoter: it is not often that an academic keeps company in the book charts with Jackie Collins and Dick Francis.
When his next novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, drawing on his youth in wartime Italy, was published in 2004, he declared it would be his last: “Five is enough”. The novel’s title was taken from a fascist-era comic book, La misteriosa fiamma della regina Loana, which Eco had enjoyed as a pro-Mussolini child growing up in north-west Piedmont. He continued to read and enjoy strip cartoons (not least the superb Italian Diabolik series) on his retirement from Bologna University as professor emeritus in 2008. His literary output continued to be prolific and included two further novels, The Prague Cemetery (2010), in which characters voiced disturbing antisemitic diatribes, and Numero Zero (2015), a razor-sharp thriller set in Milan in 1992, in which Eco explored the darker side of 20th-century Italy and the so-called “strategy of tension”, where Italian secret-service chiefs allegedly connived with cabinet ministers to implicate the left in acts of terrorism and bring back fascism. The novel, its pacy and sparsely written pages happily free of Eco’s occasional verbosity, topped the bestseller charts in Italy.
Eco is survived by his wife, Renate (nee Ramge), whom he married in 1962 and with whom he had a son, Stefano, and daughter, Carlotta.
• Umberto Eco, writer, born 5 January 1932; died 19 February 2016
• This article was amended on 21 February 2016. The Absent Structure, published in 1968, was not Eco’s first study of semiotics; this has been corrected, and the piece has been expanded.
“Goodbye to Umberto Eco, the man who knew everything” (La Repubblica)
“Goodbye to Umberto Eco, the writer who modernised culture” (Il Messaggero)
“Goodbye to Umberto Eco, literature in mourning” (La Stampa)
“Goodbye to Umberto Eco, the writer who changed Italian culture" (Corriere della Sera)
The death of philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco at the age of 84 late on Friday was reported all over the world, but in his native Italy it was front-page news. Why is perhaps best explained by the headline of the New York Times:
“Umberto Eco, 84, Best-Selling Academic Who Navigated Two Worlds, Dies"
A professor of semiotics at Bologna University, he was also a bestselling novelist, best known internationally for his novel The Name of the Rose. He did not see the slightest contradiction between the two roles. “I think of myself as a serious professor who, during the weekend, writes novels,” he said.
In Italy he was also a very public figure, frequently appearing on TV talk shows or writing opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines on everything from the importance of reading (“At the age of 70, those who don’t read will have led only one life: their own! Those who read will have lived 5000 lives) to politics. He was not a fan of Silvio Berlusconi. In 2011 he compared the Italian prime minister of the time to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in his reluctance to resign under any circumstances.
At 83 he was still capable of stirring up controversy with his statement on social media: “Social media give a platform to legions of imbeciles who previously only spoke at the bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community... It’s the invasion of the imbeciles.”
And towards the end of the year, he and a group of other writers, including Hanif Kureishi, announced they were setting up their own publishing company, La Nave di Teseo, in response to Mondadori’s proposed acquisition of the Rizzoli-Corriere della Sera, Group – Italy’s largest publishing group (owned and run by the Berlusconi family) taking over its second largest.
If you wanted a quick introduction to Umberto Eco, you could do worse than listen to him on Desert Island Discs. This historic BBC radio programme plays eight pieces of music well known personalities have chosen to take with them to a desert island, interspersed with an interview. All of Eco is there. His musical choices mix the lowbrow and the highbrow, Dooley Wilson singing As Time Goes By and Jacob van Eyck, "a Flemish-Dutch flutist”. He explains his approach to semiology: “You have the intellectual duty to analyse a poem by Homer in the same way as the words to a very popular song.” His humour is there. When asked to summarise his work, he says, “If I could say it in a few words, I would have sent a telegram instead of writing all those books.”
And his choice of one book to take with him to the island is the New York phone directory. “It contains all the names of the world. There you can imagine an infinite series of stories with infinite characters.” A choice that is unexpected, original, playful but also rational. Typically Umberto Eco.
Il 19 febbraio 2016 è morto, all’età di 84 anni, lo scrittore Umberto Eco.
Per anni, un famoso editore mi ha chiesto di scrivere una Fenomenologia di Umberto Eco firmata da Mike Bongiorno. Doveva essere una sorta di piccola vendetta, un risarcimento che il conduttore voleva prendersi per essere stato descritto come la fodera invisibile della mediocrità, lo zimbello della cultura.
Mike ne soffriva, ma anche Umberto non voleva che i suoi studi sulla tv venissero identificati con la sola «Fenomenologia», il suo saggio più citato. Eco è stato il primo in Italia a dare una svolta internazionale agli studi sulle comunicazioni di massa. Giovanissimo era entrato in Rai nella pattuglia dei «corsari» (così erano chiamati i giovani che avevano seguito un corso di formazione voluto da Filiberto Guala) e avendo visto la tv dall’interno, riuscì a fare teoria basandosi su esperienze concrete, a cominciare da un memorabile saggio sulla diretta, Il caso e l’intreccio.
L’esperienza televisiva e l’estetica, in Opera aperta, Bompiani, 1962. Per lui, la tv aveva unificato linguisticamente la penisola, là dove non vi era riuscita la scuola. Lo aveva fatto nel bene e nel male. Aveva uniformato non con il linguaggio di Dante ma con quello di Mike, nel migliore dei casi con quello delle cronache sportive, del Festival di Sanremo, dei telegiornali. Si era trattato di un fenomeno di proporzioni enormi che aveva accelerato i ritmi della nostra vita sociale in maniera impressionante. Da Opera aperta, appunto, a Diario minimo, 1963, adApocalittici e integrati, 1964, a La struttura assente, 1968, alle raccolte di saggi come Il costume di casa, 1973, Dalla periferia dell’impero, 1977, Sugli specchi e altri saggi, 1985, il discorso sulla tv ha trovato in Eco uno studioso di grande sensibilità, sempre in grado di fornire una vesta teorica alle minuzie e alle insidie dello schermo, e sempre attento alla coscienza critica dello spettatore. La sua idea di fondo era che per studiare la cultura di massa bisognasse arretrare lo sguardo, rifarsi ai filosofi e ai retori del passato, non farsi schiavizzare dalla contingenza. Non sono stato un suo studente, ma a Umberto devo molto.
Fondamentale per me è stato il «Prix Italia» del 1972, dedicato alla critica televisiva e la cui relazione introduttiva era stata affidata proprio a lui.Riprendendo uno schema di Franco Fortini, Eco proponeva tre tipologie di «finalità culturali»: la critica normativa, la critica fiancheggiatrice o militante, la critica orientativa. Nel tentare di definire alcuni criteri di teoria analitica e di metodologia critica (sia pure presi a prestito dal campo letterario), cercava di mettere ordine nelle idee che si avevano sulla tv, sulla remota possibilità che potesse essere oggetto di indagine «seria». Per la prima volta, si parlava di canone, di poetica, di «valore artistico dell’opera». Si tentavano i primi cauti discorsi sui generi, sull’estetica televisiva. Rientra in questo clima l’espressione «estetica dei parenti poveri» coniata per dare conto dell’atteggiamento di estraneità intellettuale della cultura alta nei confronti dei prodotti dell’industria culturale (si discuteva molto allora di separazione tra élite, masscult e midcult e, nonostante l’attacco a Mike, Eco aveva promosso con decisione gli studi sulla cultura pop, dalla musica ai fumetti, dal kitsch ai consumi di massa).
In quegli anni ci fu anche una grande infatuazione per la semiologia, una fucina inesauribile di teorie sullo scibile umano cui era sufficiente cercare i «segni» per ratificarle. Eco ci credeva molto, altri meno. Se la proverbiale diade «apocalittici e integrati» è diventata una di quei fortunati slogan che segnano le mode culturali (come «medium caldo, medium freddo», i «non luoghi» o la «società liquida»), la sua distinzione fra paleotv e neo tv ha caratterizzato tutti gli studi degli anni ’80 sul mezzo (la si trova in Sette anni di desiderio, 1983). Col tramonto del monopolio Rai, che aveva caratterizzato il panorama televisivo fino agli anni ’70, Eco segnalava importanti trasformazioni linguistiche. Un primo aspetto di novità era la crescente autoreferenzialità della tv, che parlava sempre meno del «mondo esterno» e sempre più di se stessa e del proprio rapporto con lo spettatore, per costruire prove della propria verità esistenziale.
Nelle «Bustine di Minerva», pubblicate settimanalmente da «L’Espresso» ha scritto di talk show, di serialità, di audience. Appariva poco in video: «Un tempo il teleschermo era il luogo in cui per definizione vedevo volti eccezionali, ora è per definizione il luogo in cui vedo i volti più comuni possibili. Una volta la tv mi dava ciò che non avrei potuto vedere altrove, oggi mi dà ciò che posso vedere ovunque. Apparire in tv vuole dire dunque condannarsi all’anonimato. Non vorrà che un uomo con le mie smodate ambizioni acconsenta a correre questo rischio». Ma a lui, a Tullio De Mauro e Piero Nelli si deve la realizzazione di una straordinaria inchiesta, «Parlare leggere scrivere», 1973, cinque puntate sulla storia della lingua italiana dall’unità nazionale ai primi anni ’70.
Umberto Eco's life full of surprises and witty insults
by Desmond O'Grady
Umberto Eco, who died late last week, became known worldwide for his whodunit set in a medieval monastery – The Name of the Rose – but even before that, in Italy, he was a guru who occasionally became an intellectual guerilla fighter and an academic who wanted to modernise hidebound Italy.
He was passionately involved with books – almost all of his own books came out of his reading. His Milanese apartment facing Sforza Castle allegedly contained 30,000 books, including many rare volumes.
Born into a middle-class family in north-western Piedmont in 1932, Eco grew up thinking Mussolini was a god. He was a devout youth, a leader in the Catholic Action movement and his Turin university PhD thesis in philosophy was on the aesthetics of St Thomas Aquinas. Later his faith disappeared "like an electric current being turned off".
For four years he worked for the state broadcaster RAI, which brought him into contact with Mike Bongiorno, a popular TV figure who ran a quiz show. Out of this experience came Eco's most famous short essay – The Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno, published in 1961; it was an example of his mixing high and pop culture, which was almost unheard of in Italy at the time. The essay appeared in a book called Diario Minimo, which in English had the more arresting title taken from another of his essays: How to Travel with a Salmon.
After obligatory military service, Eco worked as a non-fiction editor for the publisher Bompiani whose staff feared its founder Valerio Bompiani. Meeting Eco arriving at 11am, Bompiani said that work started at 9. Eco, who often worked until the early hours of the morning, said he needed his sleep."If you said you'd been wandering in the woods listening to the birds, I might have understood," Bompiani growled, "but we all need sleep, and turn up at 9."
A few days later, Bompiani was in the corridor when Eco arrived at midday. "What's going on?" the proprietor asked tersely. "I've been in the woods listening to the birds," Eco said. Eco stayed on; Bompiani said he was the only one who made him laugh. A combination of cheek and humour took the erudite Eco a long way.
At the publishing house, he met his first and only wife Renate Ramge, a German who worked there as a graphic designer. Bompiani published Eco's thesis, his first book, and then a series of his studies of semiotics – the theory that all culture consists of signs that can be decoded, whether the subject is Dante or Disney films, Mozart or Mickey Mouse, architecture, food, fashion, porn ... You name it, they were all worthy of the same kind of analysis.
He taught semiotics at universities in Turin, Florence and Milan before a 40-year spell at Bologna, Europe's oldest university, where he also set up a performing arts department and, finally, one on communications.
Not only pedantic professors objected to his cultural fusions. When he submitted an article to a literary review edited by Italo Calvino, one of his literary heroes, Calvino said he cheapened his arguments by references to the televised San Remo pop song contest. Eco was provocative in a continuous stream of witty and acute press articles.
The author and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini complained that Eco spouted his learning like a robot. In 1975, they clashed heavily over proposed abortion legislation. The homosexual Pasolini opposed its introduction and Eco, who approved it, charged Pasolini with foreshadowing a society in which a few heterosexual slaves would be allowed to procreate while a homosexual aristocracy would indulge themselves: "Neither Huxley nor Orwell, not even Hitler or Fanfani ever thought of this."
Eco excelled in spoofs of literary figures such as Vladimir Nabokov, but for much of his life he was simply the playful polymath - not a creator like Pasolini - though, like his beloved father, an accountant in an iron works who had read him stories nightly, he always read stories, or invented them, for his two children.
Then he sprang his surprise: The Name of the Rose, his first novel, published when he was 48. It sold 10 million copies in 30 languages and was made into a film starring Sean Connery. Eco had crossed another frontier.
He had studied 19th-century popular fiction and believed a lively narrative, including melodrama, enabled an author to carry his readers with him while he explored challenging arguments and issues. He published another five novels on interesting themes but often with less than interesting characters.
The last, Numero Zero, spotlighted the defects of sensationalist journalism, reflecting his obsession with the problem of distinguishing the true from the fake. He also noted the fake can foster a new reality that may even be beneficial.
Solidly built and bearded, always an enthusiastic foodie, a heavy smoker and a whiskey drinker, Eco became dumpy in his last years, and less ebullient. Although a harbinger of modernity, he seemed less than happy with markedly individualist societies that corrode communal solidarity. He claimed Europe's unity was cultural but, as this was still shallow, the unity was at risk.
Cannily, he rationed his TV appearances, was cautious about giving interviews ("most interviewers are convinced they're cleverer than you") and, although Leftist, was not captured by any political party. For years he championed computers but latterly deplored social media giving a "worldwide audience to imbeciles".
He loathed media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi and his commercial television, at one stage saying that if Berlusconi triumphed in politics, he would leave Italy. But Berlusconi, now a former, if disgraced, prime minister, is still on the scene whereas Eco has left forever. Before leaving, although aware of the cancer that would kill him at 84, he made a last gesture.
Recently, Italy's biggest publisher Mondadori, owned by Berlusconi, took over the Rizzoli publishing group, which includes Bompiani. (An anti-trust assessment released this week said this would give the new company a regrettably dominant position in Italian publishing. No decision has yet been made but a Mondadori manager said that they would be prepared to cede Bompiani to get approval for the deal.)
Before his death - and that assessment - a concerned Eco, who called the takeover "the Mondazzoli monster", invested money and time in setting up a new publisher, and many Bompiani authors followed him. The new publisher La Nave di Teseo (which translates as ship of Theseus) brought out its first book, Pape Satan Aleppe – Chronicles of a Liquid Society, a collection of Eco's articles for the past two decades, on Friday, February 26.
And here are a series of absolutely fascinating podcasts of, mostly, interviews with Umberto Eco. The first, which Kay Wallace refers to in her blog post above, is from the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs and went to air on the 17th of November, 1995; in the second podcast, which featured on the BBC Radio 3 programme Free Thinking on the 1st of December, 2015, Umberto Eco talks to Matthew Sweet about, amongst other things, his, alas, last novel: Numero Zero; the third podcast is a recording of a Guardian Live Event held at the British Library in November 2015, in which Umberto Eco talks to John Mullan about, again, his then latest novel, Numero Zero, and much more; in the fourth and final podcast below, which featured on the ABC Radio National programme Books and Arts Daily in November 2014, Michael Cathcart and guests talk about Umberto Eco's 1980 novel The Name of the Rose.
Umberto Eco was a household name in Italy, so much so that he became the very archetype of the Italian professor: witty, hypo-erudite, portly, and chain-smoking. Also, he was one of Fiorello's favourite character imitations. Here is Fiorello as Eco:
At Italia 500 we've been offering Italian courses, in Sydney, since 1995 and one of the most beautiful aspects of learning Italian is that it opens the door to a culture of unrivalled richness and diversity. In this blog we'll be sharing some of our favourite books, movies, places in Italy to visit, music, links to podcasts, information about local and international Italian themed events, and the odd "personal" view, in the hope that it will encourage you to delve further into a culture which continues to inspire us and millions of people all over the world.