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Jonathan Coe, 5 October 1995

The Island of the Day Before 
by Umberto Eco.
Secker, 513 pp., £16.99, October 1995, 0 436 20270 0
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... Umberto Eco began formulating his theories of the ‘open’ and the ‘closed’ text in the late Fifties, and then more than twenty years later, with the publication of The Name of the Rose, he appeared to achieve the impossible, by proving that these two seemingly incompatible forms could in fact be reconciled ...

Let the cork out

John Bayley, 26 October 1989

Foucault’s Pendulum 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 641 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 436 14096 9
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The Open Work 
by Umberto Eco, translated by Anna Cancogni.
Radius, 285 pp., £9.95, October 1989, 0 09 175896 3
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... And since outside it, all the more able to participate in it with readerly and writerly zest. Umberto Eco seems to be having it both ways, as he did in The Name of the Rose, offering mystery, quest and romance, while retaining, for himself, and for us, the privilege of the higher frivolity. It is in a sense an old trick, which his fellow-countryman ...
The Name of the Rose 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 502 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 436 14089 6
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... of this familiar cultural assumption, has befallen the Professor of Semiotics at Bologna, Umberto Eco. Academic novelists aren’t rare, of course, but it’s hard to think of one who regards fiction as not only entertainment but material for the practice of a professional discipline. Eco’s novel is a very ...


Luciano Berio, 8 December 1994

... To Umberto Eco for his 60th birthday run! Umberto riverrun: dagli apografi intercatattici alle filles goleuses: dai differipetizomi delle lettrici castrottiche e fabulose che godono solitarie della struttura indotta allo specchio spietato dell’onda che va e dell’Adso che viene nella catatistrofica maison de champipagne de mon oncle Thom ...


Nicholas Penny, 4 September 1986

Faith in Fakes 
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 307 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 436 14088 8
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Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages 
by Umberto Eco, translated by Hugh Bredin.
Yale, 131 pp., £6.95, September 1986, 0 300 03676 0
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... which are now nearly forgotten. I cannot recommend anyone to reread McLuhan in order to appreciate Eco’s reservations about his theories, eminently judicious though these reservations are when compared with the enthusiasm of George Steiner or Raymond Williams. The Red Brigades, however, have not been forgotten. And people still wear blue jeans. Professor ...

Cleopatra’s Books

Mary Beard, 8 February 1990

The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World 
by Luciano Canfora, translated by Martin Ryle.
Radius, 205 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 09 174049 5
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by John Gould.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 9780297793397
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... were crumpling in the fury of the fire.’ So, in the final pages of The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco destroys ‘the greatest library in Christendom’, hidden away in the impenetrable labyrinth of his macabre abbey. The reader cannot help but feel some satisfaction at this apparent disaster. For the maze of the abbey’s library and its ...

Catching the Prester John Bug

John Mullan: Umberto Eco, 8 May 2003

by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 522 pp., £18, October 2002, 0 436 27603 8
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... skirts of the fabled land of Prester John, late in the 12th century, Baudolino, the protagonist of Umberto Eco’s latest novel, encounters a pygmy. He discovers that ‘the greeting to exchange with him was Lumus kelmin pesso desmar lon emposo, which means that you pledged not to make war against him and his people.’ Baudolino’s quickness with ...

Not a Pretty Sight

Jenny Diski: Who Are You Calling Ugly?, 24 January 2008

On Ugliness 
edited by Umberto Eco.
Harvill Secker, 455 pp., £30, October 2007, 978 1 84655 122 2
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... sisters. Beauty, the Beast. Dorian, his portrait. So it’s not surprising, having commissioned Umberto Eco to write an essay and compile a book of pictures and quotations called On Beauty in 2004, that by 2007 the publishers thought it was time for On Ugliness. (Don’t tell me that publishing isn’t as easy as falling off a log.) ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Something Like a Dream of Meaning, 5 June 2014

... the novel, published in Italian in 2007 and in an English translation this year (Verso, £14.99), Umberto Eco resorts to argumentum ab auctoritate: ‘Programmers say’. The new edition, in some senses a first edition, or a whole series of first editions, has been made possible by advances – or at any rate changes – in technology. The rise of ...


Michael Wood, 23 March 1995

The Stone Raft 
by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
Harvill, 263 pp., £15.99, November 1994, 0 00 271321 7
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... that the art which conceals art is the next best thing to having no art at all. On my left, Umberto Eco; on my right ... there are too many contenders, I can’t make out any individual faces in the crowd. I’m not suggesting there are no British Europeans, or that all Continental Europeans write Euro-novels; or that there aren’t solid and ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Don't Bother to Read, 22 March 2007

... sufficient detail to wear as an effective disguise include Oscar Wilde, Montaigne, David Lodge and Umberto Eco – he always allots the book he’s citing to one class or another, giving page references from books he admits to not knowing or from one of his own books (Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? no less) he wants us to believe he’s forgotten. His candour ...

Possible Worlds and Premature Sciences

Roger Scruton, 7 February 1980

The Role of the Reader 
by Umberto Eco.
Indiana, 384 pp., £10.50, September 1980, 0 253 11139 0
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The Semiotics of the Built Environment 
by Donald Preziosi.
Indiana, 192 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 253 17638 7
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... that we have laid upon the general ‘science’ of signs? The principal exponent of semiotics is Umberto Eco, who holds the only existing chair in this possibly non-existing subject, and whose writings – which take their initial inspiration from the general classification of signs put forward by C.S. Peirce – have proved influential in Italy, France ...

No Strings

Bee Wilson: Pinocchio, 1 January 2009

by Carlo Collodi, translated by Geoffrey Brock.
NYRB, 189 pp., £8.99, November 2008, 978 1 59017 289 6
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... Pinocchio is a flaccid little creature, a true toy. In his introduction to this new translation Umberto Eco recalls the shock that Italians felt when they first saw the cinematic Pinocchio, with his button nose and ‘odd and off-putting Tyrolean hat’ instead of the sugarloaf hat from the old Mazzanti illustrations. When we first see the Disney ...

Cookson County

Rosalind Mitchison, 27 June 1991

The Hanging Tree 
by Allan Massie.
Heinemann, 346 pp., £13.99, November 1990, 0 434 45301 3
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Tiberius: The Memoirs of the Emperor 
by Allan Massie.
Hodder, 256 pp., £13.95, January 1991, 0 340 48788 7
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The Gillyflors 
by Catherine Cookson.
Bantam, 366 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 593 01726 9
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... of work there are likely to be mistakes in detail, more seriously in issues and atmosphere. Even Umberto Eco with all his learning has slipped on a Papal number in The Name of the Rose, or else his printer has done it for him. Authors may avoid slips in events and yet present us with personalities and relationships that are not believable. Allan Massie ...


George Steiner, 23 May 1996

The Modern Epic: The World System from Goethe to García Márquez 
by Franco Moretti, translated by Quentin Hoare.
Verso, 250 pp., £44, March 1996, 1 85984 934 2
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... rooted in a scriptural-classical matrix. Yet at the same time, they are ‘open-ended’ works (cf Umberto Eco) whose unbounded polysemy solicits innumerable future interpretations or misinterpretations (cf de Man). As Moretti finely puts it: ‘the sacred text dominates the reader, and reassures him; while the open work frees him and, like Melville’s ...

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