A Tribute to Umberto Eco


Could Umberto Eco be more different from Harper Lee? Perhaps in a Terry Pratchett novel, but not in real life!

Umberto_Eco_1984Umberto Eco was not an attention hog, but he was an extremely prolific writer! With a string of novels, non-fiction works, anthologies and children’s books as the fruit of his pen, it is significant to note that he was a semiotician first and then a writer.


Semiotics is the study of meaning-making, the study of sign processes and meaningful communication. This includes the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication.

To understand what this really means, we suggest that you wait until you are re-incarnated much more intelligent!

Reverse some more. In his work Opera aperta, 1962, translated as “The Open Work” he argues that for a literary text to be most rewarding, it should be capable of being interpreted in various ways. A closed work would be something that has only one possible, correct interpretation. Albeit not literary, 1+1=2 would be an example of a closed work.

Eco, in his own words, “Every text, after all, is a lazy machine asking the reader to do some of its work. What a problem it would be if a text were to say everything the receiver is to understand – it would never end.”

As you can see, there is no resonance between Ms. Harper’s insistence that she has only one message and Mr. Eco’s open works.

The Name of the Rose is the book that garnered Eco popular fans. It is groundbreaking because it is “an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory.”

The greatest epitaph, we stumbled across, must be this one, “And the craziest thing about this maddening book: people not only bought it, but read it — and tried to “understand” it.

Eco’s books were not for reading, they were about being understood.

Last week we spoke about Harper Lee. These two gifted writers might have been different in many aspects, but they were both completely unlike a character in Foucault’s Pendulum, “Jacopo Belbo didn’t understand that he had had his moment and that it would have to be enough for him, for all his life. Not recognizing it, he spent the rest of his days seeking something else, until he damned himself. ”

They recognized their moments, and lived their lives, and where able to sigh with satisfaction when their books were closed.


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