Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Eco, Umberto

(1932-2016) Italian literary academic and bestselling writer, most famed for Il nom della rosa (1980; trans William Weaver as The Name of the Rose 1983 US/UK). At the heart of this medieval detective story (> Detective/Thriller Fantasy), nonfantastic yet with deep fantasy resonances including telling Dreams and Visions, is a clash between grimly fanatical Religion and reason allied with Humour. Reason solves the strange crimes patterned on the Last Judgement in Revelations, and traces a McGuffin (the lost second volume of Aristotle's Poetics); but irrationality has the last word as this Book – with the whole marvellous monastery Library, which is a Labyrinth – is destroyed by fire. Il pendolo di Foucault (1988; trans William Weaver as Foucault's Pendulum 1989 US) examines Fantasies of History and specifically the notion of Secret Masters. Three weary Italian editors decide to spoof the dismal occult books they publish, using a computer to recombine such randomly selected notions as "The Templars have something to do with everything"; this is developed with immense, sometimes comic, erudition and discursiveness. Lacking any "real" secret, the hoaxers fall victim to cultists who desperately wish there to be a secret – exemplifying John Crowley's remark in Aegypt (1987) that, although secret societies have not had power in history, the idea of their power has. UE deploys insights of semiotics (the gap between the sign and the signified, the Map and the territory) with knowing expertise. [DRL]

other works: Postille a Il nome della rosa (1983 chap; trans William Weaver as Reflections on The Name of the Rose 1984 US), nonfiction; Travels in Hyperreality (coll 1986 US trans Weaver and others; vt Faith in Fakes 1986 UK), essays; Il bomba e il generale (1989 chap trans Weaver as The Bomb and the General 1989 chap UK/US) and Tre Cosmonauti (trans Weaver as Three Astronauts 1989 chap US/UK), children's books; L'Isola del giorno primo (1994; trans Weaver as The Island of the Day Before 1995).

see also: Fabulation; Italian Fantasy.

Umberto Eco

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.