Umberto Eco, 1932-2016
I find it beyond absurd to associate Umberto Eco with his greatest success, The Name of the Rose. Or, perhaps (who is to tell?) he might have wanted it so. I remember him so very vividly from a debate, back in the early 1980’s, at New York University, introduced and mediated by Susan Sontag. There were masses of people there to hear him speak but Susan wouldn’t let him. We all laughed. He laughed. She kept on interrupting him and going off and branching off and flowing off into analogies just as she was so brilliant at. And he sat and watched.
“What is she saying?”, he must have thought?
“What is he thinking?”, we all thought.
And she would talk about Barthes and the entire French Semiotics movement (by which we all mean, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes himself, Jean Baudrillard and so on….). And Eco was rarely given a chance to echo his voice.
But once he started it was really amusing!
Only last week I boarded a plane at Bologna airport and – quite honestly – it was hard to look at that University and not to associate it with Eco. I had no idea he was ill.
Yes, about “Foucault’s Pendulum”: I bought it fresh from the shelves but could not read it. I mean…. It begins with a huge amount of pages in Hebrew and I…..(never mind)…And, yes, I must confess my young and silly snobbism regarding “The Name of The Rose” when I saw it being sold at SLOAN’S (A supermarket chain in New York) in all its golden glossy cover, next to self help books, carpentry and gardening stuff. Yes, strange but a brilliant strategy.
Yet, when the film came out with Connery in the title role playing none other than Jorge Luis Borges – the blind librarian – and all that Tower of Babel like, “Monty Pythony” barbarism centered on the man of the million languages who gets burned to death, EUREKA!
That is when Eco struck as lightening strikes in the way that Calvino never did and so on.
Fuck. People die. I just can’t accept it, that’s all.