Umberto Eco

Mystical. Dramatic. Baroque. Algolagnical. Scatological. Sadomasochistic.


Eco Quotations
Below are some selected quotations from the works of Umberto Eco. In a few cases for the lengthier quotations, a few sentences have been deleted to make for a tidier paragraph. Sorry if this offends anyone. If anyone has any quotes they would like to add, please mail them to Porta Ludovica!

Nonfiction

In the construction of Immortal Fame you need first of all a cosmic shamelessness.
-- "Travels in Hyperreality" (1975) from Travels in Hyperreality

Terrorism [is] a biological consequence of the multinationals, just as a day of fever is the reasonable price of an effective vaccine . . . The conflict is between great powers, not between demons and heroes. Unhappily, therefore, is the nation that finds the "heroes" underfoot, especially if they still think in religious terms and involve the population in their bloody ascent to an uninhabited paradise.
-- "Striking at the Heart of the State" (1978) from Travels in Hyperreality

When all the archetypes burst out shamelessly, we plumb the depths of Homeric profundity. Two cliches make us laugh but a hundred cliches moves us because we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion . . . Just as the extreme of pain meets sensual pleasure, and the extreme of perversion borders on mystical energy, so too the extreme of banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the Sublime.
-- "Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage" (1984) from Travels in Hyperreality

A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would have not written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations.
-- Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1984)

The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text.
-- Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1984)

Today I realize that many recent exercises in "deconstructive reading" read as if inspired by my parody. This is parody's mission: it must never be afraid of going too far. If its aim is true, it simply heralds what others will later produce, unblushing, with impassive and assertive gravity.
-- Preface to Misreadings (English translation 1993)

I've always said that I learned the English I know through two sources -- Marvel Comics and Finnegans Wake.
|-- Interview, Book Magazine, September/October 2002

Lying about the future produces history.
|-- Interview, Fast Company, October 2002

Fiction

For what I saw at the abbey then (and will now recount) caused me to think that often inquisitors create heretics. And not only in the sense that they imagine heretics where these do not exist, but also that inquisitors repress the heretical putrefaction so vehemently that many are driven to share in it, in their hatred for the judges. Truly, a circle conceived by the Devil. God preserve us.
-- The Name of the Rose, First Day, Sext

"Then we are living in a place abandoned by God," I said, disheartened.
"Have you found any places where God would have felt at home?" William asked me, looking down from his great height.
-- The Name of the Rose, Second Day, Nones

"But why doesn't the Gospel ever say that Christ laughed?" I asked, for no good reason. "Is Jorge right?"
"Legions of scholars have wondered whether Christ laughed. The question doesn't interest me much. I believe he never laughed, because, omniscient as the son of God had to be, he knew how we Christians would behave. . . ."
-- The Name of the Rose, Second Day, Compline

"What terrifies you most in purity," I asked?
"Haste," William answered.
-- The Name of the Rose, Fifth Day, Nones

"I have never doubted the truth of signs, Adso; they are the only things man has with which to orient himself in the world. What I did not understand is the relation among signs . . . I behaved stubbornly, pursuing a semblance of order, when I should have known well that there is no order in the universe."
"But in imagining an erroneous order you still found something. . . ."
"What you say is very fine, Adso, and I thank you. The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterward you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless . . . The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away."
-- The Name of the Rose, Seventh Day, Night

"Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth."
-- The Name of the Rose, Seventh Day, Night

Idiot. Above her head was the only stable place in the cosmos, the only refuge from the damnation of the panta rei, and she guessed it was the Pendulum's business, not hers. A moment later the couple went off -- he, trained on some textbook that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awesomeness of their encounter -- their first and last encounter -- with the One, the Ein-Sof, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?
-- Foucault's Pendulum, Chapter 1

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us.
-- Foucault's Pendulum, Chapter 7

"Gentlemen, I will now show you this text. Forgive me for using a photocopy. It's not distrust. I don't want to subject the original to further wear."
"But Ingolf's copy wasn't the original," I said. "The parchment was the original."
"Casaubon, when originals no longer exist, the last copy is the original."
-- Foucault's Pendulum, Chapter 18

"There's only one culture: strangle the last priest with the entrails of the last Rosicrucian."
-- Foucault's Pendulum, Chapter 33

I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing.
-- Foucault's Pendulum, Chapter 87

Restless, he dreamed of his shipwreck, and dreamed it as a man of wit, who even in dreams, or especially in them, must take care that as propositions embellish a conception, so reservations make it vital, while mysterious connections give it density; considerations make it profound; emphases uplift, allusions dissimulate, transmutations make subtle.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 1

In short, Roberto privately concluded, if you would avoid wars, never make treaties of peace.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 5

"Sir," Saint-Savin replied, "the first quality of an honest man is contempt for religion, which would have us afraid of the most natural thing in the world, which is death; and would have us hate the one beautiful thing destiny has given us, which is life. We should rather aspire to a heaven where only the planets live in eternal bliss, receiving neither rewards nor condemnations, but enjoying merely their own eternal motion in the arms of the void."
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 5

What we honor as prudence in our elders is simply panic in action.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 8

"You cannot believe what you are saying."
"Well, no. Hardly ever. But the philosopher is like the poet. The latter composes ideal letters for an ideal nymph, only to plumb with his words the depths of passion. The philosopher tests the coldness of his gaze, to see how far he can undermine the fortress of bigotry."
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 8

The truth is a young maiden as modest as she is beautiful, and therefore she is always seen cloaked.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 12

Roberto learned to see the universal world as a fragile tissue of enigmas, beyond which there was no longer an Author; or if there was, He seemed lost in the making of Himself from too many perspectives. If there Roberto had sensed a world now without any center, made up only of peripheries, here he felt himself truly in the most extreme and most of peripheries; because, if there was a center, it lay before him, and he was its most immobile satellite.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 14

The pleasures of love are pains that become desirable, where sweetness and torment blend, and so love is voluntary insanity, infernal paradise, and celestial hell -- in short, harmony of opposite yearnings, sorrowful laughter, soft diamond.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 28

And we, inhabitants of the great coral of the Cosmos, believe the atom (which still we cannot see) to be full matter, whereas, it too, like everything else, is but an embroidery of voids in the Void, and we give the name of being, dense and even eternal, to that dance of inconsistencies, that infinite extension that is identified with absolute Nothingness and that spins from its own non-being the illusion of everything.
-- The Island of the Day Before, Chapter 36

There are no stories without meaning. And I am one of those men who can find it even when others fail to see it. Afterwards the story becomes the book of the living, like a blaring trumpet that raises from the tomb those who have been dust for centuries....
-- Baudolino, Chapter 2

Like all those in love, Baudolino became vain, like all those in love, he wrote that he wanted to enjoy jealously with his beloved their shared secret, but at the same time he insisted that the whole world be informed of his joy, and be stunned by the immeasurable loving nature of the woman who loved him.
-- Baudolino, Chapter 7

"God is the Unique, and he is so perfect that he does not resemble any of the things that exist or any of the things that do not; you cannot describe him using your human intelligence, as if he were someone who becomes angry if you are bad or worries about you out of goodness, someone who has a mouth, ears, face, wings, or that is spirit, father or son, not even of himself. Of the Unique you cannot say he is or is not, he embraces all but is nothing; you can name him only through dissimilarity, because it is futile to call him Goodness, Beauty, Wisdom, Amiability, Power, Justice, it would be like calling him Bear, Panther, Serpent, Dragon, or Gryphon, because whatever you say of him you will never express him. God is not body, is not figure, is not form; he does not see, does not hear, does not know disorder and perturbation; he is not soul, intelligence, imagination, opinion, thought, word, number, order, size; he is not equality and is not inequality, is not time and is not eternity; he is a will without purpose. Try to understand, Baudolino: God is a lamp without flame, a flame without fire, a fire without heat, a dark light, a silent rumble, a blind flash, a luminous soot, a ray of his own darkness, a circle that expands concentrating on its own center, a solitary simplicity; he is...is..." She paused, seeking an example that would convince them both, she the teacher and he the pupil. "He is a space that is not, in which you and I are the same thing, as we are today in this time that doesn't flow."
-- Baudolino, Chapter 33

Time is an eternity that stammers.
-- Baudolino, Chapter 33

"How beautiful you are underneath here, soft like a young animal. Are you young? I don't understand the age of a man. Are you young?"
"I am young, my love, I am just born."
-- Baudolino, Chapter 34

Concern with pleasing humans causes the loss of all spiritual growth.
-- Baudolino, Chapter 39

Yes, I know, it's not the truth, but in a great history little truths can be altered so that the greater truth emerges.
-- Baudolino, Chapter 40


--A. Ruch
13 October 2002

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