SEVEN CIRCUMSTANCES

Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco

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On 19 February 2016 Umberto Eco died, aged 84. Eco will undoubtedly be remembered for Il nome della rosa (1980; English translation: The Name of the Rose, 1983).

Eco, the renowned novelist, essayist, literary critic, philosopher, and semiotician, wrote to the last, publishing Il cimitero di Praga (2010; English translation: The Prague Cemetery, in 2011), and Numero zero in 2015. While I have read The Name of the Rose a few times, I confess I’ve been trying for months to get into The Prague Cemetery, but the main characters are just so undeniably awful and the atmosphere so dire and foreboding, that I am loath to continue.

However, the Name of the Rose is on my list of important novels by serious authors that I’ve read, and if more than half of the complex ideas and multiple meanings passed right over my head, I at least enjoyed the mystery plot. I also read, and somewhat enjoyed, How To Travel With a Salmon & Other Essays (1994, English ed.), and found On Beauty: A History of a Western Idea (2005), a useful reference, even today, since he explains the link between art and beauty, and defines exactly the Western idea of beauty.

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