The Italian semiotician and writer Umberto Eco, died on Friday, 84 years old. Not least through the intellectual thriller “Name of the Rose” – which mixed high and low and seriousness and play – he was in the 80s a prominent figure in the postmodern novel.
Sometimes I’m thinking about writing a book , which would be called “men I have met.” The subject would be twelve taggers from different fields that I have met during my a writer. Above all, it would be about writers – real silver backs, that makes you excited to meet.
One of them would be Umberto Eco. In January 2008 he became an honorary doctorate in Uppsala, and the promotional dinner at the castle, he gave a brilliant acceptance speech, in which he told how he was delighted to visit the city, which he mostly knew from the literature. He had obviously read Olof Rudbeck “Atlantica” (which is translated into Latin), and the book had a place of honor in his library with whimsy literature. Eco was a great book collector – his home library held 30,000 volumes, and the library in the summer cottage 20 000. In Uppsala Castle staircase then I ran into him and looked to be presented. Eco conversed for a while politely, but to tell the truth more interested in the cigar that he was going out to smoke in the courtyard. What is, after all, a literary conversation compared to a smoking article, like that at midnight?
Now Eco gone , and more than I feel regret. The great writers disappear. Increasingly, you get the feeling that an entire generation is moving away. Umberto Eco and his peers have experienced a very different sort of Europe than today. He was born January 5, 1932 in Alessandria in northern Italy Piedmont. During the war, he moved with his mother to a small village in the mountains. As a boy, he went to a Christian school, and then he studied medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin. Eco graduated in 1954 after writing thesis on Thomas Aquinas and then began working as a culture editor at Rai, which at the time only sent the radio. After a few years he lectures at their home university and then drawn increasingly in literary and academic circles. Already during student years, he had broken with the Catholic Church, thus not prevented him from academic study Catholic writings. At age 24, he published his first book, “Il problemo Estetico di San Tommaso,” which was a reworking of the thesis. Young and brilliant Eco seem to have been, and over the next few years he wrote a number of books in various fields, while he joined the academic lecture activities with a förläggartjänst of Bompiani in Milan. He married early with the German scholar Renate Ramge, and they had two children. As academics focused Eco medieval aesthetics (as in his first book), semiotics and literature, and media studies of various kinds.
Among his early works include “Opera Aperta” (1962), which came to be important 60 century discussions of the open artwork. A literary work is, according to Eco, an open field, free for dynamic interpretations. As a semiotician, he was pioneering with works like “The absent structure” (1968), “The role of the reader” (1979) and “Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language” (1984). Later he mentioned that semiotics gave him the opportunity to study all kinds of cultural expressions, also popular culture. In the late 60s, he wrote a study of the narrative structure of Ian Fleming, where he describes the James Bond books stockpiling as a “machinery which /…/ constitutes the basis for ’007-fairytale’ success, a success which strangely enough depends as much on the general public’s appreciation to the more sophisticated reader’s appreciation. ” In this structure are contrasts between some couples – including Bond-M, Bond The Evil One, the UK-non-Anglo-Saxon countries – game situations, a strong duality and well-written prose.
Eco became in 1975 a professor of semiotics at the University Bologna, but over the years has been a visiting professor at a number of prestigious universities, including several times at Columbia and one time at Harvard. He had at least thirty honorary doctorates.
Eco was thus an academic celebrity already when he in 1980 published his first novel, “The Name of the Rose” (in Swedish in 1983), a story about the mysterious deaths in a 1300-century monastery. Interviewers asked why he gladly Eco-aged professor who began writing novels. At an appearance in connection with the honorary doctorate upsaliensiska told Eco he often gave different answers to the question – to “please them interviewing me” – but that the real answer was “because I like it.” However, he also pointed out that he was primarily a philosopher and novelist only on weekends. Everyone has their weekend entertainment.
It is difficult today to realize how subversive “Name of the Rose” was the early 80th century readers. There was still a strong polarization between “fine” and “bad” Literature and the bookstore had principled bouncers who did not let anything. Still read detective novels in secret (if they were not written in foreign languages and could be said to read “the language’s sake”) and Aunt filth had not yet figured into the literary parlor. No one had nor could have imagined that the Swedish gialli – Dick – thirty years later would get prominent placement of the Italian book store chain Feltrinelli.
“Name of the Rose” was something completely new. It was an intellectual detective story, a mystery that demanded intelligence and well read, and where intertextuality was an important building block. One did not need to be Sherlockian to figure out the source of inspiration to William of Baskerville:
“But do not worry, the horse has gone beyond this and continued off the path to the right. He can not go so far at the straw stacks, he must stand. He is too wise to rush further down the slope … “
So, presented the British monk’s reasoning. He also knows that it is about “Brunte, the abbot’s favorite horse, the best racehorse in your stables, with black fur, eyes, five feet high, bushy tail, small round hoofs, but a very flat in the canter.” Holmes could not have done it better.
The “Name of the Rose” understand we even that literature was not only important, but also something you could joke with. Lustig units and allusions were everywhere. Jorge Burgos had a relationship with Jorge Luis Borges – one of Eco’s literary role models – were easy to grasp, but among friends, it was discussed about the rhetorician Bencio from Uppsala had no role model and in such cases it was someone we knew. If I managed to stick to the author for a while maybe I had asked. Maybe Rudbeck had something to do with it.
“Name of the Rose” was also innovative in a different way. With the Eco, the new historical novel, the one that is literary and often intertextual, amusing themselves with ingenious devices and sometimes småjävlas with his readers. Later designated such novels as postmodern. From Eco’s coat are books that Byatts “Possession” was shaking, and (when I think about it) also my own early novels. If the “Name of the Rose” also carries the profits (or blame) for the detective genre’s rebirth and the Swedish crime miracle is well more doubtful. When the book was filmed a few years later it became a more pronounced criminal history. I’m sure it appealed to Eco’s sense of humor that William of Baskerville was played by Sean Connery, the first James Bond.
After the “Name of the Rose” continued the Eco to write novels. The narrator in “Foucault’s Pendulum” (1988) has conducted research on the Templars, and the book’s conspiracy theory, this company is just one of many ingredients. It all starts as a joke, but after a start to the narrator and his friends suspect that there really is a conspiracy. In “Baudolino” (2000) we are back in the Middle Ages, but now the crusade against Constantinople 1204. Literature, mysteries and strange beings figure in the plot. “The cemetery of Prague” (2010) is instead a 1800-century history in the spirit of Dumas, where several of the century celebrities pass by.
His last novel published Eco last year. “Edition zero” takes place in 1992, when the failed writer who is the narrator gets hired to write for a newspaper, which did not consist of real news, but the fictional ones. It is a critical indictment of Berlusconi’s Italy and the Italian media power.
conspiracies, many of the Eco, as well as the strange and not always sympathetic characters and the profound lesson. This was not just a man who lived together with 50,000 physical books – he wrote leaning against the entire European culture and stressed the cultural importance of a European identity.
“Books always tell about other books, and each history tells a story that has already been told, “he said at one point. One could see it as an end unit in literature, at the expense of real life, but it’s probably more of an openness. Eco wrote books about beauty and ugliness, of literature and language, but he also showed an interest in popular culture. So he was an avid reader of “Dylan Dog,” a series that certainly is about an English nightmare detective (who always find new monsters and new beautiful women), but that is seen as the most Italian imaginable. “Now you are real Italians,” said the man in the kiosk once when we bought a number. Eco has commented on his reading: “The Bible, Homer and Dylan Dog can I read all day.” Thus vindicated, he is also the newspaper’s status as a classic.
A classic was also Umberto Eco himself . When the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in connection with the death announcement published his obituary was entitled “L’uomo che sapeva tutto” – the man who knew everything. Such was Jesus. And as well as his home country newspapers we finish well: Addio ! or perhaps even: Arrivederci ! For we meet again – in literature open fields.
Carina Burman is a writer and critic in Svenska Dagbladet.
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