World-renowned Italian author and intellectual Umberto Eco died at 84 yesterday at his home in Milan, according to Italian media reports.
Eco was best known for his historical mystery novel The Name of the Rose, a global phenomenon that was published in 1980 and has been translated into more than 40 languages. The novel was made into a movie starring Sean Connery in 1986.
His second novel, Foucault’s Pendulum, was published in 1988 and also became a world-wide bestseller.
Eco was himself a polyglot and a scholar in the arcane field of semiotics, holding the position of Honorary President of the International Center of Semiotics and Cognitive Studies at the University of San Marino and was also a member of Unesco’s International Forum.
He was a passionate Europeanist who recognized that the foundations of Western civilizations have their roots in ancient Greece. Indeed, he was accustomed to saying that “it’s culture, not war, that cements Europe,” to use the title of one of Guardian’s articles devoted to Umberto Eco’s intellectual contribution.
As he wrote in his widely praised book on Greece: An Introduction to Antiquity, “It is impossible to imagine Western civilization — and European civilization in particular — without the “Greek miracle” coming to mind in all its perfection: sculpture, architecture, literature, philosophy and science. European culture is permeated by Judaic-Christian thought; but this influence was filtered through Graecism (and Roman Antiquity), to the point that for centuries the Bible circulated only in the Latin version.”
Umberto Eco considered himself above all a philosopher, writing novels only during the weekends.
He was the recipient of the Premio Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, according to his publisher.
He held positions at some of the world’s most renowned universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cambridge and Oxford.
Umberto Eco was reported to own more than 50,000 books.