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Luciano Berio

8 December 1994
... To UmbertoEco 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 ...


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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... UmbertoEco 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 ...
6 October 1983
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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... semioticians do not normally become international best-sellers, which is the fate that, in apparent violation of this familiar cultural assumption, has befallen the Professor of Semiotics at Bologna, UmbertoEco. 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 ...


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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... reputation as philosopher, historian and literary critic’. His subjects are novelties, many of 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 ...
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 his reader, in a cheerful conspiracy of two, are the only people outside all this kind of thing. And since outside it, all the more able to participate in it with readerly and writerly zest. UmbertoEco 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 ...
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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... burning. Meanwhile, some sparks had flown towards the walls, and already the volumes of another bookcase were crumpling in the fury of the fire.’ So, in the final pages of The Name of the Rose, UmbertoEco 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 ...

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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... Somewhere in the skirts of the fabled land of Prester John, late in the 12th century, Baudolino, the protagonist of UmbertoEco’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 ...


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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... and deep, staunchly unaware that there are any other cultural products in the world, and firmly convinced that the art which conceals art is the next best thing to having no art at all. On my left, UmbertoEco; 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 ...

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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... clear at first glance: beautiful and ugly are straightforward opposites. Beautiful Cinders, ugly sisters. Beauty, the Beast. Dorian, his portrait. So it’s not surprising, having commissioned UmbertoEco 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 ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Something Like a Dream of Meaning

4 June 2014
... are only the two rules. Citing the magic number in his excitable introduction to a new edition of the novel, published in Italian in 2007 and in an English translation this year (Verso, £14.99), UmbertoEco 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 ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Don't Bother to Read

22 March 2007
... read from first word to last. Whenever he quotes a source – and the authors he quotes from in sufficient detail to wear as an effective disguise include Oscar Wilde, Montaigne, David Lodge and UmbertoEco – 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 ...
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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... our question. Does semiotics, then, represent some new departure, and does it escape the strictures that we have laid upon the general ‘science’ of signs? The principal exponent of semiotics is UmbertoEco, 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 ...

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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... freedom may be misleading. History is not just a collection of facts. Unless a novelist puts in a lot of work there are likely to be mistakes in detail, more seriously in issues and atmosphere. Even UmbertoEco 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 ...


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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... Faust II and Moby-Dick as ‘allegories run amok’. Both promise canonic orders of revelation, rooted in a scriptural-classical matrix. Yet at the same time, they are ‘open-ended’ works (cf UmbertoEco) 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 ...

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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... down on the hand with his teeth, bit it clean off, and spat it out’. Compared with this, the Disney Pinocchio is a flaccid little creature, a true toy. In his introduction to this new translation UmbertoEco 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 ...

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