Umberto Eco comes to Prague
The world-renowned philosopher and writer, Umberto Eco, is in Prague this week to accept an award from the Vision 97 foundation, set up by President Vaclav Havel and his wife Dagmar. Pavla Navratilova took the chance to catch up with Eco and ask him about his work:
Umberto Eco is a man whose expertise and academic flair spans a number of fields. Best known as an author, he is also a philosopher, journalist, and an expert in both semiotics and medieval studies. As a scholar he has received over twenty honorary doctorates, but as an author he remains best known for his hugely popular novel "The Name of the Rose".
"Having reached the end of my poor sinner's life, my hair now white, I grow old as the world does, waiting to be lost in the bottomless pit of silence and deserted divinity... I prepare to leave on this parchment my testimony as to the wondrous and terrible events that I happened to observe in my youth, now repeating verbatim all I saw and heard, without venturing to seek a design, as if to leave to those who will come after (if the Antichrist has not come first) sign of signs so that the prayer of deciphering may be exercised on them."
This is the enticing beginning to Eco's first novel, "The Name of the Rose". This quote accurately portrays Eco's challenging use of language and highly specified topic matter and yet, as Eco was quick to point out to me, this book almost immediately became an unbelievable success, much to the surprise of even its own publishers. He started off our interview by noting how this shows that popular literature isn't completely limited to mindless entertainment, but that intellectual, thought-provoking literature can also top the charts alongside Stephen King and Daniele Steele.
I took this occasion to ask about his literature and the influence it has had upon both Czech and international culture: