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Umberto Eco Biography

Umberto Eco biography online

Umberto Eco was an Italian essayist, philosopher, novelist and literary critic, known for his pioneering novel ‘The Name of the Rose’. He was a renowned researcher and writer in the field of aesthetics and semiotics. His father wanted him to become a lawyer but Eco pursued medieval philosophy and literature from the University of Turin. After that he worked as a cultural editor at the RAI. He wrote six fiction novels and many essays on contemporary semiotics. A number of his works have been translated in many foreign languages. His first fictional novel ‘The Name of the Rose’ established him firmly in the international literary scenario. He has always worked with a queer balance between history, reality and fantasy in all of his fictional work. His contribution to the mass media culture is immense through his essays such as ‘Fenomenologia di Mike Bongjorno (Phenomenology of Mike Bongjorno). He was honored with doctorates from respected literary institutions like Indiana University, Rutgers University, etc.

Childhood & Early Life

  • Umberto Eco was born on January 5, 1932 in Alessandria, in the Piedmont region in the northern Italy. His father, Giulio, was an accountant by profession and served in three wars in his lifetime and his mother, Giovanna, during those years moved with Eco to Piedmontese.
  • Eco’s father wanted him to become a lawyer but he took up medieval philosophy and literature from the University of Turin and wrote thesis on Thomas Aquinas, and earned his Laurea in philosophy in the year of 1954.

Career

  • After finishing his studies at the University of Turin, Eco worked as a cultural editor at the state broadcasting station called the Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI). Around the same time, he kept lecturing at the Turin University, as a guest lecturer.
  • In 1956, his first book called ‘II problema estetico in San Tommaso’was published. The book was an extension of his doctoral thesis, which was influenced by many artists, writers, musicians and painters that he was friends with at RAI.
  • In 1959, his second book ‘Sviluppo dell’estetica medieval (The Development of Medieval Aesthetics)’ was published. This book made him renowned as a prolific thinker of medieval philosophy.
  • In 1959, he became the senior non-fiction editor at the Bompiani publishinh house, Milan.
  • In 1962, his essay called ‘Opera aperta (The Open Work)’ was published. He professed in his work that literature is limiting and gives you a unidirectional meaning of life and art, which makes it a closed text while essays and open texts are more open to individual meaning and understanding.
  • Throughout late 1950s and 1960s, a lot of Eco’s mass media and culture work was published in newspapers and journals of Italy. His essay ‘Fenomenologia di Mike Bongjorno (Phenomenology of Mike Bongjorno) became his famous work during this time.
  • From 1963-1967, his works like ‘Diario minimo’ and ‘Apocalittici e integrati’ was published. During this time he gave his famous lecture ‘Towards a Semiological Guerilla Warfare’, which influenced the mainstream mass media cultutre.
  • From 1967-1997, many of his books were published that portrayed his thinking towards contemporary semiotics. Some of these works were ‘La struttura assente (The Absent Structure)’, ‘A Theory of Semiotics’, ‘The Role of the Reader’, ‘Semiotics and Philosophy of L+anguage’, ‘The Limits of Interpretation’, ‘Kant and the Platypus’.
  • In 1980, he wrote his first historical fiction called ‘The Name of the Rose’, which was a historical mystery set in the 14th century. The book was an indirect tribute to one of the influences in Eco life, Jorge Luis Borges. It was made into a motion picture starring Sean Connery.
  • In 1988, he wrote a novel called ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’. The novel is about three under-employed editors from a small publishing house who design a conspiracy theory to amuse themselves and how they slowly get consumed in it.
  • In 1994, he wrote ‘The Island of the Day Before’, which was set in the 17th century. The main protagonist in the book is obsessed with his past and the adventures he had before with the sea.
  • In 2000, ‘Baudolino’ was published. It is the story of a knight called Baudolino who saves a historian and tells him the story of his magnanimous life which is of course full of historical exaggeration, leaving the historian and the reader unsure of how much of it is a lie.
  • In 2005, he published his book called ‘The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana’, which has an old bookseller its main protagonist who is suffering from partial memory loss and struggles to recuperate his past.
  • In 2010, Eco’s 6th novel called ‘The Prague Cemetery’ was published. The book dwells into the past historical events that led to the rise of Jewish hatred. It portrays the rise of modern time anti-Semitism.
  • He was a professor emeritus at the University of Bologna, from 2008 till his death.

Personal Life & Legacy

  • In 1962, Eco got married to Renate Ramge who was a German art teacher. They both had two children together, a son and a daughter.
  • Umberto Eco died of pancreatic cancer on February 19, 2016, at the age of 84.

Trivia

  • He had a vacation home in Urbino and an apartment in Milan and had a library in his apartment that had at least 30,000 books in it.
  • He hoften teamed up with his friend Dr. Thomas A. Sebeok on many of his works, lectures and novels.
  • He was a member of the Italian skeptic organization CICAP.

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