In this collection of essays and addresses delivered over the course of his illustrious career, Umberto Eco seeks “to understand the chemistry of [his] passion” for the word. From musings on Ptolemy and “the force of the false” to reflections on the experimental writing of Borges and Joyce, Eco’s luminous intelligence and encyclopaedic knowledge are on dazzling display throughout. And when he reveals his own ambitions and superstitions, his authorial anxieties and fears, one feels like a secret sharer in the garden of literature to which he so often alludes.
Remarkably accessible and unfailingly stimulating, this collection exhibits the diversity of interests and the depth of knowledge that have made Eco one of the world’s leading writers.
This collection of words has possibly the most offensive cover I have ever seen, purely because I am loath to ever break the spines of my treasured possessions. After much deliberation, It is difficult to find much else to fault with this particular paperback.
This is a gathering together of essays by semiotician Umberto Eco, a man of eloquence who always manages to make me feel woefully under read. Eco uses semiotics to decipher and open up the mind, to inform and make connections, the sheer volume of authors and books quoted is genuinely impressive and makes for a weighty read but one that is satisfying and will definitely change the extent of how you view your literature and history.
The author’s eloquence on a number of topics is in evidence as he delves into the minutiae of the written word, from philosophies, technique and propaganda to mention but a few of he subjects covered. There is in evidence of an intricate flow of thought, language and complex patterns, continually unfurling and changing through history. Eco explores abstract concepts and brings to light other authors to help us decipher a rich tapestry of concept and imagery that is constantly evolving around us.
There are eighteen essays included, some keeping my attention more than others, although all had plenty of substance to them. The stand out pieces for me were, The American Myth in Three Anti-American Generations, The Power of Falsehood and Between La Mancha and Babel, to name a few. The final selection on how he writes is engaging as he talks about the experiences of his novels which will intrigue any author and fan of his work as he self analyses his own approach to the joys and pressures of writing.
The way I read this book was fairly disjointed due to being busy with extra hours at work and falling asleep to Star Trek 5 (twice in a week). It is one that does demand complete attention of the reader as the essays have plenty of depth and can at times be a little dry. Some of its essays were way above me but the knowledge of even more hidden depths within literature spurs me on, knowing I have much more to explore.