Rose Red and Monk Dead: The Art of Umberto Eco

“I felt like poisoning a monk.” – Umberto Eco, Italian essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, explaining why he wrote “The Name of the Rose” (1980).

Some quotes from Umberto Eco:

“But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”
“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.”
“Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.”
“In the United States there’s a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success. He who is successful is good. In Latin countries, in Catholic countries, a successful person is a sinner.”
“Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.”
“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.”
“A dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams.”
“I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.”
“The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb.”
“Translation is the art of failure.”
“As a scholar I am interested in the philosophy of language, semiotics, call it what you want, and one of the main features of the human language is the possibility of lying.”
“But Italy is not an intellectual country. On the subway in Tokyo everybody reads. In Italy, they don’t. Don’t evaluate Italy from the fact that it produced Raphael and Michelangelo.”
“Creativity can only be anarchic, capitalist, Darwinian.”
“How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn’t have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopping describing the sky, simply listing what they see.”
“I developed a passion for the Middle Ages the same way some people develop a passion for coconuts.”
“There are more people than you think who want to have a challenging experience, in which they are obliged to reflect about the past.”
“We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death.”
“We like lists because we don’t want to die.”
“What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.”
“I don’t see the point of having 80 million people online if all they are doing in the end is talking to ghosts in the suburbs.
“The most interesting letters I received about ‘The Name of the Rose’ were from people in the Midwest that maybe didn’t understand exactly, but wanted to understand more and who were excited by this picture of a world which was not their own.”

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