Famed author Umberto Eco died in his Milan home at the age of 84 after battling cancer. Eco passed on Friday 19 night according to Lori Glazer a spokeswomen for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing house.
“Umberto Eco was one of the great novelists and scholars of our time. Yet even more than for his timeless works, we will remember him for his exuberance, his vitality, his intense loyalties, and his wonderful company,” said Bruce Nichols of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Eco rose to fame in 1980 after his first novel, The Name of the Rose, was published, making him an international celebrity overnight. The novel was translated into 43 languages, sold millions of copies and was turned into a movie starring Sean Connery in 1986.
Set from 1327 onward, the novel is about an ageing priest anxious to record the story of his life before he dies. He looks back on his life events including a sinister visit to an Italian monastery with his master. The book is about gruesome murders and the detective hunt to catch the murderer that follows. The famed author Eco attributed the novel’s popularity to the similarity of experiences shared across the fourteenth and late twentieth centuries.
“I hope readers see the roots, that everything that existed then — from banks and the inflationary spiral to the burning of libraries — exists today,” Eco said in an interview with the New York Times in 1983. During the interview Eco expressed his irritation at the reluctance of the international press to let him move on from the achievement of his first novel.
Before The Name of the Rose was published, Eco was unknown outside of his university circles until well into middle age. Now he is remembered as one of Italy’s most celebrated intellectuals.
“He was an extraordinary example of European intellectualism, uniting a unique intelligence of the past with an inexhaustible capacity to anticipate the future,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency Ansa.
Eco was best known for his novels but was also a professional academic, having studied medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin. He wrote and taught philosophy for many years and taught at Columbia, Northwestern, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford and the University of Bologna according to CNN.
“I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends,” Eco told Britain’s Guardian newspaper last year.
As a philosopher I am interested in truth. Since it is very difficult to decide what’s true or not I discovered that it’s easier to arrive at truth through the analysis of fakes.
The famed author was known for his wildly popular novels that challenged the reader. He specialised in disciplines such as semiotics and linguistics, among others. His love of signs and symbols lead to his less popular second novel Foucaults Pendulum. Foucaults Pendulum is a thriller so complicated that the novel comes with an annotated guide to help readers understand the story and follow the plot.
Before the fame brought on by The Name of the Rose, a teenage Eco lived in northern Italy and wrote comic books and fantasy novels. He worked as a journalist for Italian television starting in the 1950s, and later wrote children’s books and columns for Italian newspapers. He wrote up until his death and in the past decade published essay collections on current events.
nothing is more fleeting than external form, which withers and alters like the flowers of the field at the appearance of autumn— Umberto Eco (@umbertoeco_) February 2, 2013
Eco received many awards during his life and was the recipient of the Premio Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Prize for communication and was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government. He was also an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, according to his publisher.
The last novel Eco wrote was published in 2015. The novel is an Italian political scandal called Numero Zero.
[ Photo by Mario Carlini/Getty Images]