Interview with Umberto Eco

Interview with Umberto Eco

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Tags: books, history, language.

Umberto Eco

Der Spiegel has an interesting interview with scholar and author Umberto Eco, in which he discusses the merits of lists:

SPIEGEL: But why does Homer list all of those warriors and their ships if he knows that he can never name them all?

Eco: Homer’s work hits again and again on the topos of the inexpressible. People will always do that. We have always been fascinated by infinite space, by the endless stars and by galaxies upon galaxies. 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. Lovers are in the same position. They experience a deficiency of language, a lack of words to express their feelings. But do lovers ever stop trying to do so? They create lists: Your eyes are so beautiful, and so is your mouth, and your collarbone… One could go into great detail.

Another good one:

Eco: …Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes.

Also, hearing the author of Foucault’s Pendulum say, “I felt like a character in a Dan Brown novel,” is a little bizarre.


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