Umberto Eco Quotes

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Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco in 1984
Born (1932-01-05)5 January 1932
Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy
Died 19 February 2016(2016-02-19) (aged 84)
Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Cause of death Pancreatic cancer
Alma mater University of Turin
Spouse(s) Renate Ramge
Era 20th/21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy
Main interests
Semiotics
Notable ideas
The “open work” (opera aperta), the “intention of the reader” (“intentio lectoris”), the “limits” of interpretation

There are books on our shelves we haven't read and doubtless never will, that each of us has probably put to one side in the belief that we will read them later on, perhaps even in another life.
Umberto Eco
Many people who no longer go to church end up falling prey to superstition.
Umberto Eco
Conspiracies do exist. Probably in this moment in New York there is an economic group making a conspiracy in order to buy three banks. But if they succeed, they are immediately discovered.
Umberto Eco
People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.
It comes down to a question of attention: it's difficult to use the Net distractedly, unlike the television or the radio.
Umberto Eco
It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion.
Umberto Eco
To read a paper book is another experience: you can do it on a ship, on the branch of a tree, on your bed, even if there is a blackout.
Umberto Eco
Libraries can take the place of God.
When men stop believing in God, it isn't that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything.
Umberto Eco
Even today, I frequently meet scientists who, outside their own narrow discipline, are superstitious.
Umberto Eco
We are a pluralist civilisation because we allow mosques to be built in our countries, and we are not going to stop simply because Christian missionaries are thrown into prison in Kabul. If we did so, we, too, would become Taliban.
Umberto Eco
You die, but most of what you have accumulated will not be lost; you are leaving a message in a bottle.
Umberto Eco
One can be a great poet and be politically stupid.
To play the trumpet, you must train your lips for a long time. When I was twelve or thirteen I was a good player, but I lost the skill and now I play very badly. I do it every day even so. The reason is that I want to return to my childhood. For me, the trumpet is evidence of the sort of young man I was.
Umberto Eco
My grandfather had a particularly important influence on my life, even though I didn't visit him often, since he lived about three miles out of town and he died when I was six. He was remarkably curious about the world, and he read lots of books.
Umberto Eco
It is clear that when you write a story that takes place in the past, you try to show what really happened in those times. But you are always moved by the suspicion that you are also showing something about our contemporary world.
Umberto Eco
Perhaps I am not as wise as I like to think I am.
It is sometimes hard to grasp the difference between identifying with one's own roots, understanding people with other roots, and judging what is good or bad.
Umberto Eco
A dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams.
Followers of the occult believe in only what they already know, and in those things that confirm what they have already learned.
Umberto Eco
The function of memory is not only to preserve, but also to throw away. If you remembered everything from your entire life, you would be sick.
Umberto Eco
I think of myself as a serious professor who, during the weekend, writes novels.
Umberto Eco
Every time that I write a novel I am convinced for at least two years that it is the last one, because a novel is like a child. It takes two years after its birth. You have to take care of it. It starts walking, and then speaking.
Umberto Eco
Better reality than a dream: if something is real, then it's real and you're not to blame.
Umberto Eco
The court jester had the right to say the most outrageous things to the king. Everything was permitted during carnival, even the songs that the Roman legionnaires would sing, calling Julius Caesar 'queen,' alluding, in a very transparent way, to his real, or presumed, homosexual escapades.
Umberto Eco
I started to work in television for three or four years, in 1954. There was one channel of television, black and white. But it could be entertaining and educational. During the evening they showed important plays, opera or Shakespeare's tragedies.
Umberto Eco
I have lost the freedom of not having an opinion.
We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death.
There are more books in the world than hours in which to read them. We are thus deeply influenced by books we haven't read, that we haven't had the time to read.
Umberto Eco
Because of lies, we can produce and invent a possible world.
We are never racist against somebody who is very far away. I don't know any racism against the Eskimos. To have a racist feeling, there must be an other who is slightly different from us – but is living close to us.
Umberto Eco
The grandeur of Jerusalem is also... its problem.
When I went from being an academic to being a member of the community of writers some of my former colleagues did look on me with a certain resentment.
Umberto Eco
The United States needed a civil war to unite properly.
History is rich with adventurous men, long on charisma, with a highly developed instinct for their own interests, who have pursued personal power – bypassing parliaments and constitutions, distributing favours to their minions, and conflating their own desires with the interests of the community.
Umberto Eco
It is a myth of publishers that people want to read easy things.
If western culture is shown to be rich, it is because, even before the Enlightenment, it has tried to 'dissolve' harmful simplifications through inquiry and the critical mind.
Umberto Eco
My father was an accountant and his father was a typographer.
Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.
Umberto Eco
As an adolescent I wrote comic books, because I read lots of them, and fantasy novels set in Malaysia and Central Africa.
Umberto Eco
How does a person feel when looking at the sky? He thinks that he doesn't have enough tongues to describe what he sees. Nevertheless, people have never stopping describing the sky, simply listing what they see.
Umberto Eco
I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.
Umberto Eco
There are more people than you think who want to have a challenging experience, in which they are obliged to reflect about the past.
Umberto Eco
Semiotics is a general theory of all existing languages… all forms of communication – visual, tactile, and so on… There is general semiotics, which is a philosophical approach to this field, and then there are many specific semiotics.
Umberto Eco
My maternal grandmother – she was a compulsive reader. She had only been through five grades of elementary school, but she was a member of the municipal library, and she brought home two or three books a week for me. They could be dime novels or Balzac.
Umberto Eco
The problem with the Internet is that it gives you everything – reliable material and crazy material. So the problem becomes, how do you discriminate?
Umberto Eco
I write what I write.
The mobile phone… is a tool for those whose professions require a fast response, such as doctors or plumbers.
Umberto Eco
There is no great sport in having bullets flying about one in every direction, but I find they have less horror when among them than when in anticipation.
Umberto Eco
I think every professor and writer is in some way an exhibitionist because his or her normal activity is a theatrical one. When you give a lesson the situation is the same as writing a book. You have to capture the attention, the complicity of your audience.
Umberto Eco
The comic is the perception of the opposite; humor is the feeling of it.
I don't want to write a novel per year. I know that I need a break of one or two years. So maybe I invent some new, urgent activity so I don't fall into the trap of starting a new novel.
Umberto Eco
A transposable aphorism is a malaise of the urge to be witty, or in other words, a maxim that is untroubled by the fact that the opposite of what it says is equally true so long as it appears to be funny.
Umberto Eco
I like nicotine because it excites my brain and helps me work.
Certainly, light fiction exists and encompasses mysteries or second-class romance novels, books that are read on the beach, whose only aim is to entertain. These books are not concerned with style or creativity – instead they are successful because they are repetitive and follow a template that readers enjoy.
Umberto Eco
Every European goes on the streets and sees medieval churches. Not if you live in Indianapolis. The most exciting letters I received were from people in places like that.
Umberto Eco
Nothing gives a fearful man more courage than another's fear.
I was a fervent Catholic, and I belonged to the national organizations, even becoming one of the national leaders, until the age of 21, 22.
Umberto Eco
After years of practice, I can walk into a bookstore and understand its layout in a few seconds. I can glance at the spine of a book and make a good guess at its content from a number of signs.
Umberto Eco
The thought that all experience will be lost at the moment of my death makes me feel pain and fear… What a waste, decades spent building up experience, only to throw it all away… We remedy this sadness by working. For example, by writing, painting, or building cities.
Umberto Eco
The author may not interpret. But he must tell why and how he wrote his book.
Umberto Eco
Entering a novel is like going on a climb in the mountains: You have to learn the rhythms of respiration – acquire the pace. Otherwise you stop right away.
Umberto Eco
The most interesting letters I received about 'The Name of the Rose' were from people in the Midwest that maybe didn't understand exactly, but wanted to understand more and who were excited by this picture of a world which was not their own.
Umberto Eco
The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity.
Umberto Eco
I think a book should be judged 10 years later, after reading and re-reading it.
Umberto Eco
Young people do not watch television; they are on the Internet.
The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.
Umberto Eco
There is nothing more difficult to define than an aphorism.
Translation is the art of failure.
If people buy my books for vanity, I consider it a tax on idiocy.
Media populism means appealing to people directly through media. A politician who can master the media can shape political affairs outside of parliament and even eliminate the mediation of parliament.
Umberto Eco
The book is like the spoon, scissors, the hammer, the wheel. Once invented, it cannot be improved. You cannot make a spoon that is better than a spoon… The book has been thoroughly tested, and it's very hard to see how it could be improved on for its current purposes.
Umberto Eco
As a scholar I am interested in the philosophy of language, semiotics, call it what you want, and one of the main features of the human language is the possibility of lying.
Umberto Eco
Does the novel have to deepen the psychology of its heroes? Certainly the modern novel does, but the ancient legends did not do the same. Oedipus' psychology was deduced by Aeschylus or Freud, but the character is simply there, fixed in a pure and terribly disquieting state.
Umberto Eco
I love the secrecy of writing fiction. When I write a novel, I don't tell anybody what I'm doing. I'm living in my private world. And it's a great sensation.
Umberto Eco
The question of manuscript changes is very important for literary criticism, the psychology of creation and other aspects of the study of literature.
Umberto Eco
A secret is powerful when it is empty.
A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. so the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.
Umberto Eco
We invented the car, and it made it easier for us to crash and die. If I gave a car to my grandfather, he would die in five minutes, while I have grown up slowly to accept speed.
Umberto Eco
Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.
Umberto Eco
Sometimes you say things with a smile with the precise intention of making it clear that you are not being serious, and are only kidding. If I salute a friend with a smile and say, 'How are you, you old scoundrel!' clearly I don't really mean he's a scoundrel.
Umberto Eco
Dan Brown is a character from 'Foucault's Pendulum!' I invented him. He shares my characters' fascinations – the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.
Umberto Eco
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
Umberto Eco
If somebody writes a book and doesn't care for the survival of that book, he's an imbecile.
Umberto Eco
Creativity can only be anarchic, capitalist, Darwinian.
When someone has to intervene to defend the liberty of the press, that society is sick.
Umberto Eco
All the religious wars that have caused blood to be shed for centuries arise from passionate feelings and facile counter-positions, such as Us and Them, good and bad, white and black.
Umberto Eco
I developed a passion for the Middle Ages the same way some people develop a passion for coconuts.
Umberto Eco
The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb.
Umberto Eco
But Italy is not an intellectual country. On the subway in Tokyo everybody reads. In Italy, they don't. Don't evaluate Italy from the fact that it produced Raphael and Michelangelo.
Umberto Eco
I have to admit that I only read 'War and Peace' when I was 40. But I knew the basics before then.
Umberto Eco
Poetry is not a matter of feelings, it is a matter of language. It is language which creates feelings.
Umberto Eco
Captain Cook discovered Australia looking for the Terra Incognita. Christopher Columbus thought he was finding India but discovered America. History is full of events that happened because of an imaginary tale.
Umberto Eco
Berlusconi is a genius in communication. Otherwise, he would never have become so rich.
Umberto Eco
Beauty is boring because it is predictable.
We like lists because we don't want to die.
From lies to forgeries the step is not so long, and I have written technical essays on the logic of forgeries and on the influence of forgeries on history.
Umberto Eco
Our most noted satirists are true columnists, and their opinions can be worth more than any well-documented expose.
Umberto Eco
At a certain moment, I decided to write a story. I had no more small children to tell them stories.
Umberto Eco
Political satire is a serious thing. In democratic newspapers throughout the world there are daily cartoons that often are not even funny, as is the case especially in many English-language newspapers. Instead, they contain a political message, and the artist takes full responsibility.
Umberto Eco
But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.
Umberto Eco

Our life is full of empty space.
I could work in the shower if I had plastic paper.
With all of its defects, the global market makes war less likely, even between the U.S.A. and China.
Umberto Eco
When one starts writing a book, especially a novel, even the humblest person in the world hopes to become Homer.
Umberto Eco
In the United States there's a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success. He who is successful is good. In Latin countries, in Catholic countries, a successful person is a sinner.
Umberto Eco
Today, political events are nullified unless they're on TV.
Musical compositions can be very sad – Chopin – but you have the pleasure of this sadness. The cheap consolation is: you will be happy. The higher consolation is the pleasure and recognition of your unhappiness, the pleasure of having recognised that fate, destiny and life are such as they are and so you reach a higher form of consciousness.
Umberto Eco
I feel that I am a scholar who only with the left hand writes novels.
Homer's work hits again and again on the topos of the inexpressible. People will always do that.
Umberto Eco
Human beings are religious animals.
Our life is full of empty space.
Every European goes on the streets and sees medieval churches. Not if you live in Indianapolis.
Umberto Eco
What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.
Narrativity presumes a special taste for plot. And this taste for plot was always very present in the Anglo-Saxon countries and that explains their high quality of detective novels.
Umberto Eco
Religion has nothing to do with God. It's a fundamental attitude of human beings, who ask about the origins of life and what happens after death. For many, the answer is a personal god. In my opinion, it's religion that produces God, not the other way round.
Umberto Eco
I don't see the point of having 80 million people online if all they are doing in the end is talking to ghosts in the suburbs.
Umberto Eco
The French, the Italians, the Germans, the Spanish and the English have spent centuries killing each other.
Umberto Eco
When the poet is in love, he is incapable of writing poetry on love. He has to write when he remembers that he was in love.
Umberto Eco