I love Umberto Eco’s fiction. I believe The Name of the Rose is utterly brilliant (to the point where I actually bought a pretty edition of the thing. And we’ve discussed Foucault’s Pendulum here before.
Eco’s essays, for me, were a different story. At first reading, I found them a bit dry and boring. Perhaps a little too philosophical for their own good. They are certainly well thought out, but you need to be very awake to fully process them. He was not a big believer in delivering easy to understand wisdom.
So the first time I read Umberto Eco on Literature, I had to read it when I was fully awake and alert, despite finding the subject matter, for the most part, absolutely fascinating.
But then, I discovered the secret to unlock the full enjoyment of this volume. The trick lies in undersanding that these essays were actually speeches that Eco gave in different elite literary places: universities, institutes and such.
They are meant to be heard, not read.
Therein, however, lies another problem: most of these aren’t on YouTube.
No matter, I disovered. All you need to do is to watch any English-language interview with the great man – I recommend this one – to see what he sounds like, just before starting one of the essays and, magically, as you read, you will read them in his own accent. That makes them utterly perfect.
Umberto Eco shouldn’t be anything less than brilliant.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist. His latest novel, The Malakiad, will likely make a lot of Greeks angry, while making other Greeks laugh. People from other nationalities will invariably enjoy it.