Umberto Eco, 1932-2016


Tom Mullica died two days ago. I think I need a smoke.


I’d like this if I could. I’ve got a six hour hold on likes at the moment.


Except for Illuminatus!, which is more exuberant but less disciplined (and obviously involved a lot more drugs in its creation).

I’ve still got my copy of Illuminatus!, but I think my ex must have thrown out my copy of Pendulum. Dammit, now would be the perfect time for a re-read.

£4.95 on Kindle. Hmmm …


Last summer I found myself in a hotel and it was raining. I was so bored I actually read The Da Vinci Code. I can only say that your analysis is far too kind to it.

Foucault’s Pendulum isn’t just a satire on occultists and conspiracy theorists - it explains vanity publishing and has insights into how political corruption works in Italy. And The Name of the Rose isn’t just a late mediaeval detective story - it explains the church and state politics of a complicated era in Italy, and provides an intellectually convincing look at life in a monastery, even if it’s a monastery with an extension designed by Borges. I guess both books have the same problem as Ulysses - they have such a reputation they may put people off (yet Ulysses is one of the funniest books ever written. Take it steadily with a copy of The Bloomsday Book to help with the Irish side.)

I read Travels in Hyperreality around the time I was frequently travelling to the US on business, and it made much clear to me that I hadn’t understood. I think it’s still worth reading though electronics has made some of the things he discusses rather out of date. Some of his essays - especially the one on the difference between US and Chinese cartoon strips - are also very illuminating. My disappointment is the English translation of Misreadings, where the translator seems to me to have a bit of a tin ear for the jokes as written down in English. Since Giovanni Guareschi - who wrote about violent events in the Po valley in an extremely flat, affectless style which was actually very artistic, and whose translator managed to achieve the same in English - a number of translators of Italian books seem to think that’s how Italian should be translated.
The translator of The Name of the Rose makes a few annoying minor errors too that Eco didn’t, like confusing monks and friars. But otherwise it’s a superb translation.



His semiotics writings open doors in the mind and are enormous fun too.
Always loved his essay on Casablanca, “The clichés are having a ball.”


Murdoch, hopefully.


Well, the hounds of spring will be on winter’s traces, for one thing.
So…any elderly poets we’re worried about?

You are assuming he’s alive, and not a mechatronic device.


I’ve never found an American who has read TiH who disagrees with Eco on this.
European recreations tend to be either as accurate as possible - Deutsches Museum, Beamish - or a little bit shit. Which is also accurate, because I’ve lived long enough to know that with hindsight the past is a liitle bit shit. Or, in some periods, very shit indeed.
Whether Eco has been translated into Chinese or not I don’t know, but apparently there is a whole town in China that is a recreation of Birmingham, England, complete with canals and mock Tudor houses. Which is funny, because most English people regard Birmingham’s main virtue as being surrounded by motorways so you don’t actually need to go near it.


He was just being a European intellectual. People who don’t spend all their time on the lecture circuit or TV actually have time to read, think and write. He was also satirising people who read crazy books obsessively.


His 1994 column on the religious wars among DOS, Windows, and the Mac OS (with machine language thrown in too) is hilarious, if now a bit dated. Google it! (Hint: the Mac is Catholic, DOS is Calvinistic, Windows is Anglican and machine language is talmudic.)


It is a sad day for semiotics.


Foucault’s Pendulum at least is completely un-filmable. Too much of it would be lost in the conversion to the screen - just look at what happened to The Name of the Rose, which was a lot more filmable a book (although, granted, the movie could have done a much better job of it). So many ideas, so much history. Dan Brown, on the other hand, is the kind of writer who doesn’t put anything on the page that can’t be converted into a screenplay without losing anything (because there’s nothing much of substance to be lost in the first place).

And it’s about more than that, even. There’s so much going on in that book. Brown’s work seems to be inspired by the most superficial reading possible of Pendulum, totally missing the point of it, and whereas Eco’s work is about so many things, Brown’s is ultimately about nothing.
Reading Eco inspired me to try to teach myself Latin (it’s, er, going very slowly). I wonder if I should teach myself Italian to read some of it in the original…


What does that signify, precisely?

Omnis mundi creatura
quasi liber et pictura
nobis est in speculum
-which I think could be called Eco’s creed.


Given the era in which it was written and Eco’s preferred medium, writing, I think we can assume that if Eco had wanted to write a screenplay he would have done so.
I also object to Austen films on the same grounds - she lived in Bath, had she wanted to write a play producers would have queued up.
The film industry needs to stop adapting books and write its own damn plots that suit the medium.
[edit - I’m agreeing with you, I think.]


Ah, so something like Foucault’s Pendulum and Frankenstein or Foucault’s Pendulum and Ponies, perhaps?


G-d fucking dammit!

apparently he has switch from musicians to authors


It also explores medieval philosophy, the semiotics of the Apocalypse, and post-modernist theory. And it’s fun! The book The Key to “The Name of the Rose” is a handy guide for the perplexed.

(Note to readers: if you make past the chapter where the main character admires the church door it’s pretty smooth sailing.)


(Totally untrue)


I was trying not to put off potential readers too much.

From the sublime to the obnoxious, anybody who thinks that apocalyptic semiotics aren’t interesting is obviously not following Trump.