Addio, Umberto Eco


Secrets were masked and unmasked in Umberto Eco’s novel, The Name of the Rose. –

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Famous Italian semiotics professor, philosopher, and author Umberto Eco died at his home in Milan on Friday, February 19. Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols in language. Eco was knowledgeable in five languages, as well as in Latin and Greek, which made semiotics a reasonable choice for is work at the University of Bologna. He was also a writer of prodigious talents.

If his name fails to ring a bell, perhaps noting that he was the author of the 1980 mystery novel The Name of the Rose does strike a chime. A movie version of the novel was released in 1986 starring Sean Connery as Brother William as the sleuth who, along with his young assistant novice monk Adso, must track down the killer of several monks in a fourteenth century remote Benedictine monastery in Italy. That the novel became wildly popular fascinates, for it is full of intellectual and religious arguments of that era that resonate in a familiar manner today. I recall reading The Name of the Rose shortly after it was published in the English version. The intricate plot, the details of monastic life in the 1300’s and the strongly drawn characters kept my interest piqued throughout the breadth of the nearly 600-page novel. I particularly liked that Brother William and Adso helper functioned as a kind of Medieval Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson duo as they uncovered deadly, entrenched secrets within the monastery.

Eco’s second novel, Foucualt’s Pendulum, had an annotated guide accompanying it to help the reader keep the plot and the characters straight. I thought it quirky and uncommon, much like Umberto Eco himself, though I never knew the man. What I do know, however, is that his writing has left readers multiple books to enjoy and to contemplate.

Risposa in Pace, Professore Eco!

Ciao for now.

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