Written by – Sara Pacioselli
Translated by – Lucrezia Iussi
Umberto Eco, semiologist, novelist, remarkable Italian intellectual, died last night at 10.30 pm, in his house. The news took us by surprise and, as it happens every time a great artist dies, we’re left speechless.
Born in Alessandria on January the 5th 1932, his career was full of successes, such as “The name of the Rose” and “Foucault’s pendulum”. Philosopher, communication expert, semiologist, he always had a closer look on reality in all of its aspects. He had also been collaborating for a long time with Repubblica and L’Espresso, with his column, “La bustina di Minerva”.
After he departed from Mondadori (since Mondadori’s recent merger with Rcs) he had recently launched a new publishing house, called “Theseus’ ship”. He was aware of the possibility of it being a failure, but he claimed that “Theseus is just a pretext, a name like any other. What’s important is the ship, not Theseus”, as if to say that even if the ship loses its parts, these get replaced to keep sailing.
We want to remember him the way he was: a great intellectual, who knew how to read into reality, providing a political, but also philosophical, literary and most of all critical interpretation. He will always be famous for his publications, such as “The Open Work” (1962), the essay “Lector in Fabula” (1979), and “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” (2004), an illustrated novel with pictures from papers and books, comics, posters, which makes us live again the period from the late ‘30s to the war.
Last but not least, Eco was also active on the social media side: everybody knows about the invective he held in Turin, in the Cavallerizza Reale Lecture Hall, on the occasion of his honorary degree in “Communication and media culture”, against social media, accused of giving voice to “legions of idiots who used to talk only at the pub after a glass of wine, without damaging the community. They used to be quickly hushed, but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize does. It’s an idiots invasion”.
Agree or disagree with this idea, Eco knew inevitably how to make people think, and we want to remember him with this quote: “About the people who do not read: when they are 70 they will have lived only one life. But the ones who read, they will have lived 5000 years. Reading is immortality backwards”.
If you want to learn more about his speech against social media and the Internet, here’s the link to the complete video (in Italian):