Umberto Eco, Italian writer and author of “The Name of the Rose”, deceased at 84

ROME (Reuters) – Italian writer Umberto Eco, who rose to fame for the 1980 international blockbuster “The Name of the Rose”, died on Friday, Italian media reported. He was 84 years old.

La Repubblica newspaper said it was informed by the family that Eco died on Friday evening at his home in northern Italy.

Eco was virtually unknown outside of academic circles until middle age, when he found himself an international celebrity overnight after publishing his first novel, an unorthodox detective story set in a medieval monastery.

“It was an extraordinary example of European intellectualism, combining a unique intelligence of the past with an inexhaustible capacity to anticipate the future”, declared Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, quoted by the Italian news agency Ansa.

For the professor of the University of Bologna, then 48 years old, it is about a late introduction in the world of the international literary fame and which surprised many critics.

“The” Name of the Rose “, with its very detailed description of life in a 14th century monastery and its scholarly accounts of the philosophical and religious disputes of the time, was not at first sight a novel to please the reader modern medium.

But the popularity of the book lay in a clever plot, the masterfully evoked atmosphere of fear and sadness that covered the monastery, and the attractive central figure, shamelessly modeled after the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

At the beginning of the novel, an aging priest, anxious to record history before he dies, looks back on the events of 1327 when, as an 18-year-old novice, he visited a grim Italian monastery with his master. , brother Guillaume de Baskerville.

During their stay, several monks are horribly murdered, and William and his young assistant are soon embroiled in a detective hunt to find the villain.

The unusual juxtaposition of a gripping storyline and scholastic scholasticism has helped explain why the “” Name of the Rose “has been translated into dozens of languages, sold over 14 million copies, and won multiple awards. international literary works.

PRESSURE FILM

The book was also the subject of a lavish film production directed by Frenchman Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Scottish actor Sean Connery as Brother William.

Eco attributed the success of the book to the similarity of experiences shared by humanity in the 14th and late 20th centuries.

“I hope readers see the roots, that everything that existed then – from the banks and the inflationary spiral to the burning of libraries – exists today,” he said in an interview with The New York Times Book Review in 1983.

But he also expressed his irritation at the apparent reluctance of the international press to let him move on.

““ I can’t spend the rest of my life talking about a book I left behind five years ago, ”he once complained.

The form of the novel was a new departure for Eco, who until “” The Name of the Rose “was best known for his highly academic writings on semiotics, the study of signs, and more topical weekly articles in the novel. influential Italian political magazine L’Espresso.

His second novel, “” Le Pendule de Foucault “, was less successful internationally but still highly acclaimed.

His latest novel, “Numero Zero” (Number Zero), which takes place in the newsroom of an Italian newspaper, was published last year.

Born in Alessandria, northwestern Italy, on January 5, 1932, Eco was the son of an accountant employed by an iron tub manufacturer.

His father wanted him to become a lawyer but instead chose to study philosophy at the University of the North of Turin, where he developed a passion for the medieval world.

After obtaining his doctorate in 1954, Eco began working for the recently established national broadcasting network RAI, preparing cultural programs and taking a long-term interest in mass communication.


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