"I always assume that a good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of."
"Critical creativity - criticizing what we are doing or inventing better
ways of doing it - is the only mark of the intellectual function."
"An illiterate person who dies, let us say at my age, has lived one life,
whereas I have lived the lives of Napoleon, Caesar, d’Artagnan. So I
always encourage young people to read books, because it’s an ideal way
to develop a great memory and a ravenous multiple personality. And then
at the end of your life you have lived countless lives, which is a
"If culture did not filter, it would be inane - as inane as the formless,
boundless internet is on its own. And if we all possessed the boundless
knowledge of the web, we would be idiots! Culture is an instrument for
making a hierarchical system of intellectual labor."
"I think that comedy is the quintessential human reaction to the fear of death."
Just a smattering of observations made by Umberto Eco in the course of this excellent interview with Lila Azam Zanganeh for The Paris Review. Eco died on Friday, and the wide-ranging interview - which covers everything from his childhood passion for books to reflections on his career and academic and literary legacy - serves as a superb epitaph.
Along the way, Eco discusses semiotics, philosophy, translation, the added power and richness of ideas and theories when transposed into fiction, his literary influences (Joyce and Borges, but also Aquinas and other classical philosophers), his contemporary literary loves (Roth and DeLillo), political engagement and memory. Amusingly, he confesses to a love of Starsky And Hutch, and claims that Dan Brown is essentially one of his fictional creations.
The fact that he didn't write his first novel - the bestselling The Name Of The Rose - until he was 48 gives hope to this late-thirtysomething that it might yet happen...
(Thanks to Adam for the link.)