If we should make a record of this year since it started, it certainly would count remarkable losses in the cultural panorama of the world.
Almost in conjunction with the literary giant’s death of Harper Lee, the intellectual world sees also the loss of Umberto Eco, Italian novelist, essayist, literary critic and philosopher, passed away at the age of 84 after suffering from cancer.
Best known for his 1980 book The Name of the Rose, a medieval detective novel, among his works we also remember The Foucault’s Pendolum, The Island of the Day Before, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Prague Cemetery and his latest Number Zero, published in 2015, offering a satire of Italy’s kickback and bribery culture. However, as he said once, he was a philosopher and wrote his novels only on weekends.
He was known particularly for his sharpness, that made his voice more vivid among the contemporary intellectuals, for his ability to tell about the future as if he had already bumped into it, his way of getting straight to the point, as when he said that ‘social media would give the right to speak to legions of idiots as if they were a Nobel Prize’.
A complex character who brought a huge contribution to the intellectual world, both Italian and international.
Whenever a beautiful mind like Umberto Eco dies, the public opinion can’t ignore what he taught and what still will do through his extraordinary eternal voice. Indeed, the truth is that certain minds never pass away, even if they do not belong any longer to this world.
‘No matter how old you are, or how many battles life demands you to fight, having life plans is the best remedy a man can do to take care of himself’, he once said. And added: ‘Having a project is the only alternative to the puzzles, the real medicine to defeat Alzheimer’.
A strong defender of Italian language, he always branded generalizations as well as set phrases.
Human beings should never be scared of death, he once said. ‘The first quality of an honest man’, he wrote, ‘is the disregard of the religion that wants us fearful both of life, as well as of death’.
He approached literature in a peculiar way and the Corriere della Sera, the leading Italian daily, said ‘He changed Italian culture’.
He said once that “people who don’t read will reach the age of 70 having lived only one life, their own. Those who read will be living 5000 years, as reading brings immortality’.
Yet, he said literature is about losers. ‘Dostoevskij wrote about losers. The main character of The Iliad, Hector, is a loser. Madame Bovary and Julien Sorel (the main character of The Red and the Black by Stendhal) are losers. Talking about winners is boring’, he said. ‘Losers are fascinating. Winners are often stupid because they usually win by chance’.
Despite his age, has always aimed for a change in his life. As he once said ‘If you interact with the world, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot’.