The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 5, 2017

January 5, 1932

Umberto Eco (January 5, 1932 to February 19, 2016) was an Italian man of letters; he won world fame with his boundary banging mystery fiction, The Name of the Rose (1980).

His native land at first called the novelist

"A buffoon.” ...The criticisms remind us of Eco’s roots as a “militant” semiologist, moving back and forth through the 50s and 60s between the university and popular media, working as a lecturer, a TV journalist and publisher’s editor, constantly writing lively, provocative articles that aimed to give a deeper sense to such phenomena as gameshow hosts, TV serials, song contests and so on – all in a period when Italy was experiencing rapid social and cultural change. Essentially, the world was a huge and complex text in need of an expert interpreter: himself. As a result, Italians have always thought of the man first and foremost as a cultural critic, rather than a novelist

...He brilliantly exposes all that is absurd and paradoxical in contemporary behaviour..

Eco’s irony is disarming, his cleverness dazzling. Yet from time to time an underlying unpleasantness emerges. Speaking about those people so engrossed in their phones that they bump into you in the street, he describes deliberately turning his back on an approaching woman, allowing her to collide with him, then congratulating himself when her phone clatters on the pavement. “I only hope it broke and advise everyone in the same situation to do as I did,” he concludes...

Eco loved comics and in an essay on Krazy Kat he wrote:

.... the poetry originated from a certain lyrical stubbornness in the author, who repeated his tale ad infinitum, varying it always but sticking to its theme. It was thanks only to this that the mouse’s arrogance, the dog’s unrewarded compassion, and the cat’s desperate love could arrive at what many critics felt was a genuine state of poetry, an uninterrupted elegy based on sorrowing innocence.

After the death of Umberto Eco, a spokesman for the University of Bologna, where he had taught, was quoted to this effect:

“The whole world mourns the loss of a wide-ranging humanist who brought about a revolution in culture, an indefatigable investigator into the meaning of signs, of words and of life. It was he who taught us that in order to subvert languages and expression, it is necessary first of all to understand them.”

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