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Umberto Eco, the Rose and the Laughter

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 Dionysios Dervis-Bournias
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'When someone looks at my library and asks if I have read everything, I reply: "Absolutely not. The books I've already read are stored in the basement. Here, you barely see what I'll read during the weekend,"' Umberto Eco related with delightful self-irony.
Eco was one of the most erudite men of the 20th and this early 21st century. What distinguished him from those who snivel about "cultural decadence in the West," those embittered individuals who look back to Greco-Roman culture with nostalgia? To begin with, the fact that he had a Greco-Roman culture ! And this true erudition made him droll, joyfully childlike in this good pleasure that, after love, wine and music, only a good book can procure.
So it is interesting and amusing to note the tolerance and openness of this gentleman who obviously read all classical literature, Greek and Latin, in the original, whereas 'telly-intellectuals', unable to read a damned phrase of Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas in the original text, keep harping about contemporary inferiority in relation to a past about which they have only fragmentary knowledge... in translation.
A semiologist and philosopher already legendary in the academic world, it was with The Name of the Rose, published in 1980, that Eco became a veritable worldwide star. No paternalism of 'popularisation' in his approach to writing this detective novel, but there, too, pleasure, intimately linked to reflection.

The nightmarish library of the Benedictine abbey in which he sets his story is the theatre stage of this tragic paradox: oh, how intolerant, stupid, mean, petty and, in the final analysis, criminal these "scholars" can appear, whose reading (were it only thousands of volumes) is deprived of laughter and pleasure.

Reread The Name of the Rose now to remember that nutcases capable of killing for a book on comedy, laughter, and pleasure (this is the novel's detective plot) are not exclusively members of a single religion.
Read The Limits of Interpretation to see what a true scholar is, one who takes us by the hand with the enthusiasm of an adolescent grandfather. But, above all, to realise this elementary thing: it is not the (delightful) syntax of illiterate football players that is the sign of our contemporary cultural decadence but the uneducated, fascistic and jihadist nonsense of certain xenophobic, homophobic intellectuals.
Talking about his choice of a title for his best-known novel, Eco said that 'the rose of the title is a symbol so rich in meaning that it now means everything and nothing'.
On this sad morning, the rose indeed has a meaning, Professore: Rosas nudas tenemus.
Published in the French edition of Huff Post

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