Umberto Eco is one of those rare writers/thinkers who can create works that have both a populist vein and a deeply intellectual backbone. No easy trick. It’s tough to be entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. I try to do it all the time, on this blog. Whether I’m successful or not, only you know for sure dear reader.
Objectivity about one’s work is perhaps the most difficult trick of all.
I decided to write about Eco today, after reading this piece in Germany’s Der Spiegel – a revealing interview with the famed author and semiotician. I’ve touched on Eco before in a post called, The Name of the Prose . He’s an unending source of fascination, and his latest endeavor is par for the course. He is “curating a new exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, about the place lists hold in the history of culture.” Yes. Lists. Here’s a little taste: “We like lists because we don’t want to die.” Only Eco could make a subject like lists sound interesting. Do read the article, if your curiosity’s been piqued as was mine.
Eco reading recommendations, you ask? My fave – Comment Voyager Avec un Saumon (How to Travel with a Salmon) – if you can find an English translation or read French. Foulcault’s Pendulum . And Baudolino .
I ran into Eco by chance – in Paris, coincidentally – when I went to hear my sister lecture at the Sorbonne, the last time I was there. Approaching me head on at a furious pace, in the middle of one of the university’s medieval courtyards, was this tower of a bearded man wearing all black, sporting a large-brimmed Fedora and a flowing scarf. I immediately knew it was him.
He looked like some kind of swashbuckler.
Or one of Cardinal Richelieu’s henchmen.
Or maybe just a stylish rabbi in a hurry.
(Image: Umberto Eco.)