Italian Writer and Philosopher Umberto Eco Dies at 84

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Italian writer Umberto Eco, a revered philosopher and literary critic, has lost his battle with cancer. The BBC reports that the author best known for his novel The Name of the Rose, a genre-bending tale set at an Italian monastery in the 14th century, died at home. He was 84. The Name of the Rose brought international attention to Eco and was adapted for the big screen, starring Sean Connery as the fictional Franciscan friar William of Baskerville.

Eco chose to study philosophy instead of law (against his father’s wishes). He became one of the leading contemporary semioticians, worked as a cultural editor for Italian Radio-Television, lectured and taught at the Universities of Turin and Bologna, wrote about aesthetics (Opera aperta or The Open Work), and was a lover of lists.

“The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists,” he told Der Spiegel in an interview. “In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants, or of treasures and book titles. Think of the nature collections of the 16th century. My novels, by the way, are full of lists.”