Umberto Eco passed away on Friday February 19, 2016 at the age of 84. He has been suffering from cancer. I am deeply saddened. He was a great intellectual. He has been a novelist, essayist, literary critic, philosopher, and semiotician. He will be remembered.
Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi said that he was “an extraordinary example of a European intellectual, combining unique intelligence of the past with a limitless capacity to anticipate the future. It’s an enormous loss for culture, which will miss his writing and voice, his sharp and lively thought, and his humanity.”
Lila Azam Zanganeh’s interview with Umberto Eco published in The Paris Review is very interesting. Ms. Zanganeh starts by describing Eco’s apartment in Milan.
“The apartment is a labyrinth of corridors lined with bookcases that reach all the way up to extraordinarily high ceilings—thirty thousand volumes, said Eco, with another twenty thousand at his manor. I saw scientific treatises by Ptolemy and novels by Calvino, critical studies of Saussure and Joyce, entire sections devoted to medieval history and arcane manuscripts. The library feels alive, as many of the books seem worn from heavy use; Eco reads at great speed and has a prodigious memory. In his study, a maze of shelves contains Eco’s own complete works in all their translations (Arabic, Finnish, Japanese . . . I lost count after more than thirty languages). Eco pointed at his books with amorous precision, attracting my attention to volume after volume, from his early landmark work of critical theory, The Open Work, to his most recent opus, On Ugliness.”