Umberto Eco, author of 'The Name of the Rose,' dead at 84 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Umberto Eco, author of 'The Name of the Rose,' dead at 84

Posted: Updated:
Italian writer, medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, literary critic and novelists Umberto Eco waves to public during the Italian State RAI TV program in Milan, Italy. Eco, best known for the international best-seller “The Name of the Rose,” died Friday Italian writer, medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, literary critic and novelists Umberto Eco waves to public during the Italian State RAI TV program in Milan, Italy. Eco, best known for the international best-seller “The Name of the Rose,” died Friday

ROME (AP) — Italian author Umberto Eco, who intrigued, puzzled and delighted readers worldwide with his best-selling historical novel "The Name of the Rose," has died.

Spokeswoman Lori Glazer of Eco's American publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, told The Associated Press that Eco died Friday at age 84. She could not immediately confirm the cause of death or where he died.

Author of a wide range of books, Eco was fascinated with the obscure and the mundane, and his books were both engaging narratives and philosophical and intellectual exercises. The bearded, heavy-set scholar, critic and novelist took on the esoteric theory of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols in language; on popular culture icons like James Bond; and on the technical languages of the Internet.

"The Name of the Rose" transformed him from academic to international celebrity, especially after the medieval thriller set in a monastery was made into a film starring Sean Connery in 1986. "The Name of the Rose" sold millions of copies, a feat for a narrative filled with partially translated Latin quotes and puzzling musings on the nature of symbols. But Eco talked about his inspiration with characteristic irony: "I began writing ... prodded by a seminal idea: I felt like poisoning a monk."

His second novel, the 1988 "Foucault's Pendulum," a byzantine tale of plotting publishers and secret sects also styled as a thriller, was successful, too —though it was so complicated that an annotated guide accompanied it to help the reader follow the plot.

In 2000, when awarding Eco Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias Prize for communications, the jury praised his works "of universal distribution and profound effect that are already classics in contemporary thought."

Eco was born Jan. 5, 1932 in Alessandria, a town east of Turin; he said the reserved culture there was a source for his "world vision: a skepticism and an aversion to rhetoric." He received a university degree in philosophy from the University of Turin in 1954, beginning his fascination with the Middle Ages and the aesthetics of text. He later defined semiotics as "a philosophy of language."

He had always loved storytelling and as a teenager wrote comic books and fantasy novels.

"I was a perfectionist and wanted to make them look as though they had been printed, so I wrote them in capital letters and made up title pages, summaries, illustrations," he told The Paris Review in 1988. "It was so tiring that I never finished any of them. I was at that time a great writer of unaccomplished masterpieces."

Eco remained involved with academia, becoming the first professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna in 1971. He also lectured at institutions worldwide and was a fellow at elite colleges like Oxford University and Columbia University. Twenty-three institutions had awarded him honorary degrees by 2000.

But Eco was also able to bridge the gap between popular and intellectual culture, publishing his musings in daily newspapers and Italy's leading weekly magazine L'Espresso.

Eco started in journalism in the 1950s, working for the Italian state-owned television RAI. From the 1960s onwards, he wrote columns for several Italian dailies. He also wrote children's books, including "The Bomb and the General" ("La Bomba e il Generale").

In 2003, Eco published a collection of lectures on translations, "Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation," and a year later he wrote the novel "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana," a story about an antiquarian book dealer who loses his memory.

Recent works include "From the Tree to the Labyrinth," an essay on semiology and language published in 2007 and "Turning Back the Clock," a collection of essays on various subjects, ranging from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-Semitism and his staunch criticism of Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government. His most recent novel, "Numero Zero," came out last year and recalled a political scandal from the 1990s that helped lead to Berlusconi's rise.

__

Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report from New York.

  • Entertainment NewsEntertainment NewsMore>>

  • Can Cam Newton Really Do It All?

    Can Cam Newton Really Do It All?

    Monday, March 25 2019 4:12 PM EDT2019-03-25 20:12:42 GMT

    James puts the supremely talented Cam Newton through a series of tests to find out how much Cam can do? Can Cam catch grapes, defend his rock-paper-scissors title and do one last dab?

     

    James puts the supremely talented Cam Newton through a series of tests to find out how much Cam can do? Can Cam catch grapes, defend his rock-paper-scissors title and do one last dab?

     
  • Larry Cohen, director of cult horror films, dies at 77

    Larry Cohen, director of cult horror films, dies at 77

    Sunday, March 24 2019 4:31 PM EDT2019-03-24 20:31:21 GMT
    Monday, March 25 2019 4:12 PM EDT2019-03-25 20:12:00 GMT
    (AP Photo/Phil McCarten, File). File-This Oct. 30, 2006, file photo shows writer, director Larry Cohen, left, and wife Cynthia Cohen arriving for the Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate launch party for FEARnet, a multi-platform network dedicated to horror, he...(AP Photo/Phil McCarten, File). File-This Oct. 30, 2006, file photo shows writer, director Larry Cohen, left, and wife Cynthia Cohen arriving for the Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate launch party for FEARnet, a multi-platform network dedicated to horror, he...
    (AP Photo/Phil McCarten, File). File-This Oct. 30, 2006, file photo shows writer, director Larry Cohen, left, and wife Cynthia Cohen arriving for the Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate launch party for FEARnet, a multi-platform network dedicated to horror, he...(AP Photo/Phil McCarten, File). File-This Oct. 30, 2006, file photo shows writer, director Larry Cohen, left, and wife Cynthia Cohen arriving for the Comcast, Sony and Lionsgate launch party for FEARnet, a multi-platform network dedicated to horror, he...
    Larry Cohen, the maverick B-movie director of cult horror films like "It's Alive" and "God Told Me To," has died. 
    Larry Cohen, the maverick B-movie director of cult horror films like "It's Alive" and "God Told Me To," has died. 
  • Big Brother hopefuls audition in San Diego to be on season 21

    Big Brother hopefuls audition in San Diego to be on season 21

    Monday, March 25 2019 10:47 AM EDT2019-03-25 14:47:56 GMT

    Every year, CBS looks for more than a dozen people to live in a house together and compete for $500,000 on “Big Brother.” On Sunday hundreds of people gathered in Miramar to show off why they deserve to be the next houseguest on the show.

     

    Every year, CBS looks for more than a dozen people to live in a house together and compete for $500,000 on “Big Brother.” On Sunday hundreds of people gathered in Miramar to show off why they deserve to be the next houseguest on the show.

     
Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2019 KFMB-TV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.