Top Quotes from Umberto Eco

By | September 15, 2016

Our life is full of empty space.

Umberto Eco

Sometimes you say things with a smile with the precise intention of making it clear that you are not being serious, and are only kidding. If I salute a friend with a smile and say, ‘How are you, you old scoundrel!’ clearly I don’t really mean he’s a scoundrel.

Umberto Eco

All the religious wars that have caused blood to be shed for centuries arise from passionate feelings and facile counter-positions, such as Us and Them, good and bad, white and black.

Umberto Eco

I could work in the shower if I had plastic paper.

Umberto Eco

I think every professor and writer is in some way an exhibitionist because his or her normal activity is a theatrical one. When you give a lesson the situation is the same as writing a book. You have to capture the attention, the complicity of your audience.

Umberto Eco

The grandeur of Jerusalem is also… its problem.

Umberto Eco

Nothing gives a fearful man more courage than another’s fear.

Umberto Eco

The court jester had the right to say the most outrageous things to the king. Everything was permitted during carnival, even the songs that the Roman legionnaires would sing, calling Julius Caesar ‘queen,’ alluding, in a very transparent way, to his real, or presumed, homosexual escapades.

Umberto Eco

I started to work in television for three or four years, in 1954. There was one channel of television, black and white. But it could be entertaining and educational. During the evening they showed important plays, opera or Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Umberto Eco

I love the secrecy of writing fiction. When I write a novel, I don’t tell anybody what I’m doing. I’m living in my private world. And it’s a great sensation.

Umberto Eco

I love the secrecy of writing fiction. When I write a novel, I don’t tell anybody what I’m doing. I’m living in my private world. And it’s a great sensation.

Umberto Eco

When the poet is in love, he is incapable of writing poetry on love. He has to write when he remembers that he was in love.

Umberto Eco

Does the novel have to deepen the psychology of its heroes? Certainly the modern novel does, but the ancient legends did not do the same. Oedipus’ psychology was deduced by Aeschylus or Freud, but the character is simply there, fixed in a pure and terribly disquieting state.

Umberto Eco

Poetry is not a matter of feelings, it is a matter of language. It is language which creates feelings.

Umberto Eco

The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.

Umberto Eco

To read a paper book is another experience: you can do it on a ship, on the branch of a tree, on your bed, even if there is a blackout.

Umberto Eco

Captain Cook discovered Australia looking for the Terra Incognita. Christopher Columbus thought he was finding India but discovered America. History is full of events that happened because of an imaginary tale.

Umberto Eco

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

Umberto Eco

In the United States there’s a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success. He who is successful is good. In Latin countries, in Catholic countries, a successful person is a sinner.

Umberto Eco

Semiotics is a general theory of all existing languages… all forms of communication – visual, tactile, and so on… There is general semiotics, which is a philosophical approach to this field, and then there are many specific semiotics.

Umberto Eco

Entering a novel is like going on a climb in the mountains: You have to learn the rhythms of respiration – acquire the pace. Otherwise you stop right away.

Umberto Eco

When someone has to intervene to defend the liberty of the press, that society is sick.

Umberto Eco

The function of memory is not only to preserve, but also to throw away. If you remembered everything from your entire life, you would be sick.

Umberto Eco

If western culture is shown to be rich, it is because, even before the Enlightenment, it has tried to ‘dissolve’ harmful simplifications through inquiry and the critical mind.

Umberto Eco

You die, but most of what you have accumulated will not be lost; you are leaving a message in a bottle.

Umberto Eco

I write what I write.

Umberto Eco

The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity.

Umberto Eco

Many people who no longer go to church end up falling prey to superstition.

Umberto Eco

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.

Umberto Eco

What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.

Umberto Eco

From lies to forgeries the step is not so long, and I have written technical essays on the logic of forgeries and on the influence of forgeries on history.

Umberto Eco

Religion has nothing to do with God. It’s a fundamental attitude of human beings, who ask about the origins of life and what happens after death. For many, the answer is a personal god. In my opinion, it’s religion that produces God, not the other way round.

Umberto Eco

Political satire is a serious thing. In democratic newspapers throughout the world there are daily cartoons that often are not even funny, as is the case especially in many English-language newspapers. Instead, they contain a political message, and the artist takes full responsibility.

Umberto Eco

The mobile phone… is a tool for those whose professions require a fast response, such as doctors or plumbers.

Umberto Eco

People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.

Umberto Eco

My maternal grandmother – she was a compulsive reader. She had only been through five grades of elementary school, but she was a member of the municipal library, and she brought home two or three books a week for me. They could be dime novels or Balzac.

Umberto Eco

Narrativity presumes a special taste for plot. And this taste for plot was always very present in the Anglo-Saxon countries and that explains their high quality of detective novels.

Umberto Eco

We are a pluralist civilisation because we allow mosques to be built in our countries, and we are not going to stop simply because Christian missionaries are thrown into prison in Kabul. If we did so, we, too, would become Taliban.

Umberto Eco

If somebody writes a book and doesn’t care for the survival of that book, he’s an imbecile.

Umberto Eco

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

Umberto Eco

Every European goes on the streets and sees medieval churches. Not if you live in Indianapolis.

Umberto Eco

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book is made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb.

Umberto Eco

Musical compositions can be very sad – Chopin – but you have the pleasure of this sadness. The cheap consolation is: you will be happy. The higher consolation is the pleasure and recognition of your unhappiness, the pleasure of having recognised that fate, destiny and life are such as they are and so you reach a higher form of consciousness.

Umberto Eco

A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. so the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.

Umberto Eco

There is no great sport in having bullets flying about one in every direction, but I find they have less horror when among them than when in anticipation.

Umberto Eco

With all of its defects, the global market makes war less likely, even between the U.S.A. and China.

Umberto Eco

The question of manuscript changes is very important for literary criticism, the psychology of creation and other aspects of the study of literature.

Umberto Eco

Better reality than a dream: if something is real, then it’s real and you’re not to blame.

Umberto Eco

I think a book should be judged 10 years later, after reading and re-reading it.

Umberto Eco

The problem with the Internet is that it gives you everything – reliable material and crazy material. So the problem becomes, how do you discriminate?

Umberto Eco

Media populism means appealing to people directly through media. A politician who can master the media can shape political affairs outside of parliament and even eliminate the mediation of parliament.

Umberto Eco

History is rich with adventurous men, long on charisma, with a highly developed instinct for their own interests, who have pursued personal power – bypassing parliaments and constitutions, distributing favours to their minions, and conflating their own desires with the interests of the community.

Umberto Eco

There are books on our shelves we haven’t read and doubtless never will, that each of us has probably put to one side in the belief that we will read them later on, perhaps even in another life.

Umberto Eco

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