Italian academician and best-selling novelist Umberto Eco dies at age 84


Feb 20, 2016 12:00:09 IST

London: Italian academician-cum-bestselling novelist Umberto Eco, best known for acclaimed novels The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, has died, reports said on Saturday. He was 84.

His family announced he had passed away at home late Friday but gave no further details, BBC reported.

Italian academician and best-selling novelist Umberto Eco dies at age 84

Umberto Eco. AP Image.

Born in Alessandria in northern Italy on January 5, 1932, Eco combined his academic life in which he made significant contributions to semiotics or study of human signs and symbols and their use and interpretation, aesthetics, literary theory, media culture and anthropology with at least half-a-dozen novels, marked by their subtle references to literature and history and exhibiting the inter-connectedness of all literary works.

He himself admitted to being inspired by Irish author James Joyce and Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

His first novel was The Name of the Rose (1980), which combined a medieval murder mystery with semiotics, scriptural analysis and debate, and literary theory.It was made into a film in 1989 starring Sean Connery as the principal protagonist, English Franciscan monk William of Baskerville (a homage to both renowned philosopher William of Ockham and Sherlock Holmes, through the Baskerville reference) and Christian Slater.

His other most famous work is Foucault's Pendulum (1988), on the dangers of conspiracy theories. It is about three friends amusing themselves by inventing a grand conspiracy theory about an immense and intricate plot to take over the world by a secret order descended from the Knights Templar. They slowly become overly obsessed with it while the venture turns dangerous and tragic when some fanatics learn of it and come to believe that the trio has discovered the secret to the location of some lost treasure.

Apart from five other novels including Numero Zero (2015) which satirises Italy's kickback and bribery culture and legacy of Fascism, he is known for his collection of incisive essays including "Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality" (1986) on the modern world's, especially America, obsession with simulated reality and a method of countering mainstream media culture, "Six Walks in the Fictional Woods" (1994) on techniques of fiction and narration, and "How to Travel with a Salmon and Other Essays" (1998), on various aspects and complexities of of modern culture including topics like how not to use a cellular phone and recognising porn movies.

Other prominent works were "Kant and the Platypus : Essays on Language and Cognition" (1999), "Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism" (2007), which takes the examples of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to examine the reversal of history exemplified by revival of topics like the Islam-Christianity clash, the anti-Darwin debate, the "Yellow Peril" or the fear that East Asians were a threat and so on, and "Inventing the Enemy" (2012) in which among his take on censorship and Wikileaks, he contends that that every country needs an enemy, and if it doesn't have one, than it must create one.

He also wrote a few books for children.


Updated Date: Feb 20, 2016 12:00:09 IST