Tag: Umberto Eco

Eco and Lee RIP

Saturday, 20 February, 2016 0 Comments

“In the beginning was the Word…”

With the deaths of Umberto Eco and Harper Lee we have lost two writers whose imaginative use of words helped people see life in a new light. Lee’s Alabama and Eco’s Milan were world’s apart, but both writers created works that found global audiences. Lee took small-town prejudice and transformed it into a drama about the struggle for justice. Her stroke of genius was telling the story from the half-innocent viewpoint of children. Eco most famously used the familiar format of the thriller to examine the meaning of religious belief and fanaticism in a time of terror. At the end, now, what remains of Harper Lee and Umberto Eco is the word, but it will persist.

“There, I said to myself, are the reasons for the silence and darkness that surround the library: it is the preserve of learning but can maintain this learning unsullied only if it prevents its reaching anyone at all, even the monks themselves. Learning is not like a coin, which remains whole even through the most infamous transactions; it is, rather, like a very handsome dress, which is worn out through use and ostentation. Is not a book like that, in fact?”

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

“Miss Gates is a nice lady, ain’t she?”
“Why sure,” said Jem. “I liked her when I was in her room.”
“She hates Hitler a lot . . .”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, she went on today about how bad it was him treating the Jews like that. Jem, it’s not right to persecute anybody, is it? I mean have mean thoughts about anybody, even, is it?”
“Gracious no, Scout. What’s eatin’ you?”
“Well, coming out of the courthouse that night Miss Gates was — she was going’ down the steps in front of us, you musta not seen her — she was talking with Miss Stephanie Crawford. I heard her say it’s time somebody time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gettin’ way above themelves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us. Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an’ then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Breaking Umberto Eco’s rules of writing

Thursday, 18 April, 2013 1 Comment

In his list of “Rules for Writing (Well)”, the Italian polymath Umberto Eco wittily noted:

“Be concise; try expressing your thoughts with the least possible number of words, avoiding long sentences — or sentences interrupted by incidental phrases that always confuse the casual reader — in order to avoid contributing to the general pollution of information, which is surely (particularly when it is uselessly ripe with unnecessary explanations, or at least non indispensable specifications) one of the tragedies of our media-dominated time.”

In light of that, consider this:

“I believe that a European Union that has the courage to face all of its past, including its darker periods of empire, with honesty, and its future with a commitment to values that are inclusive of all humanity, with a discourse that respects diversity, has a profound contribution to make — not only to its own citizens in Europe but to the global community.”

That sentence is taken from an address to the European Parliament delivered yesterday in Strasbourg by Michael D Higgins, the President of Ireland.


Home wasn’t built in a day

Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

A very harsh fact of reality is that no one is indispensable. Life goes on, with or without us, and nothing illustrates this better than the experience of leaving home and then returning. Umberto Eco illustrates the point with the following story: “At the age of twenty Salvatore leaves his native town and emigrates to […]

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