Umberto Eco

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Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco (Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy, January 5, 1932 – Milan, Lombardy, February 19, 2016) was a writer, philosopher and professor at an Italian university. He was the author of numerous essays on semiotics, aesthetics, linguistics and philosophy, as well as several novels, the name of the rose being the best known.

Umberto_Eco’s Biography

First years

He was born in the city of Alessandria on January 5, 1932 in northern Italy, in the Piedmont region. His father, Giulio Eco, was an accountant before the Second World War, when he was called to serve in the armed forces. During the war, Umberto and his mother, Giovanna Bisio, moved to a small Piedmontese town. Eco received Salesian education.

Studies and influences

His father was interested in Umberto studying Law. However, he received his doctorate in philosophy and letters at the University of Turin in 1954, with a work published two years later with the title El problema estético en Santo Tomás de Aquino (1956).

After his doctorate, Eco worked as cultural editor for RAI, Italian radio and television; and also began to work as a professor at the universities of Turin and Florence before practicing for two years at the University of Milan (1956-1964). In this period he came into contact with the group of artists (painters, musicians, writers) called Gruppo 63, which would influence his future career as a writer.

In September 1962 he married Renate Ramge, a German art teacher with whom he had a son and a daughter.


Later he became professor of visual communication in Florence in 1966. It was in those years when he published his important semiotic studies Obra abierta (1962) and La estructura absente (1968), [n. 1] of eclectic bias.

He co-founded the International Association of Semiology in 1969, of which he was secretary.

In 1971 he began teaching at the University of Bologna, and from 1975 to 2007 he held the Chair of Semiotics at that university, and later, in 2000, he created the Higher School of Humanistic Studies in Bologna, an academic initiative for graduates only. of high level destined to spread the universal culture .In 2008 he was named professor emeritus in Bologna.


Distinguished literary critic, semiólogo and comunicólogo, began to publish his narrative works in mature age (although in recent conferences he tells of his youthful experiments, which include the handicraft edition of a comic in the adolescence).

He began his narrative work in 1966 by publishing two stories for children illustrated by Eugenio Carmi, La bomba y el General and Los tres cosmonautas. Eco also wrote other stories, Los gnomos de Gnù (1992), illustrated as the ones by Carmi; and The mysterious end of planet Earth (2002), for an adult audience.

In 1980 he became a narrator with The Name of the Rose, a historical culturalist novel susceptible of multiple readings (such as a philosophical novel, historical novel or detective novel, and also from a semiological point of view). It revolves around a detective fable set in a Benedictine monastery in 1327; sonorous editorial success, it was translated into many languages ​​and taken to the cinema in 1986 by the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

He also wrote other novels, such as The Pendulum by Foucault (1988), a fable about a secret conspiracy of wise men about esoteric themes; The island of the day before (1994), a Kafkaesque parable about uncertainty and the need for answers; Baudolino (2000), a picaresque novel -also set in the Middle Ages- that constitutes another resounding success; The mysterious flame of Reina Loana (2004); The cemetery of Prague (2010); and his latest novel, Number zero (2015).


He also cultivated other genres, such as the essay, where he stood out notably with titles such as: Obra abierta (1962), Diario mínima (1963), Apocalyptic and integrated (1965), The absent structure (1968), Il costume di casa ( 1973), The Form and Content (1971), Sign (1973), Treatise on General Semiotics (1975), The Superman of the Masses (1976), From the Periphery to the Empire (1977), Reader in Fabula (1979) , Semiotics and philosophy of language (1984), The limits of interpretation (1990), Six walks through the narrative forests (1990), The search for the perfect language (1994), Kant and the platypus (1997) and Five moral writings (1998).


He was a member of the Forum of Wise Men of the Executive Board of Unesco and Doctor Honoris Causa by thirty-eight universities: among them, the University of Liège (1986), the Complutense University of Madrid (1990), the University from Tel Aviv (1994), the University of Athens (1995), the University of Warsaw (1996), the University of Castilla-La Mancha (1997), the Free University of Berlin (1998), the University of Seville (2010) , the University of Burgos (2013) and the University of Buenos Aires (2014).

In 2000, he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities. He was a knight of the French Legion of Honor.

He also received: the Gold Medal for the merit of culture and art (Rome, 1997); Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Rome, 1996); Ordine Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste; commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, in France; the Strega Prize, the Medici Prize, the Bancarella Prize, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He was an honorary member of the James Joyce Association, of the Academy of Sciences of Bologna, of the European Academy of Yuste, of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of the Royal Academy of Belgium, of the Umiejętności Polska Akademia (Polish Academy of Arts), the College of St. Anne of Oxford and the Accademia dei Lincei. It was proposed on several occasions for the Nobel Prize. [Citation required]


Affected for years by a cancer, his death occurred at age 84 at his home in the city of Milan on February 19, 2016 at 10:30 pm local time. The funeral was also in Milan, at the Sforzesco Castle, through a lay ceremony. Eco, in his will, requested that no tributes be celebrated or celebrations be organized in his memory for at least ten years.

In 2016, De la stupidez a la madness was published, a posthumous book compilation of articles published in the press by Umberto Eco, selected by the same Eco before his death.

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