Umberto Eco, Italian author of 'The Name of the Rose,' dies at 84

Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:16am EST
 
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - Italian author Umberto Eco, who became famous for the 1980 international blockbuster "The Name of the Rose", died on Friday, Italian media reported. He was 84.

La Repubblica newspaper said it had been informed by the family that Eco died late on Friday night at his home in northern Italy.

Eco was virtually unknown outside university circles until well into middle age, when he found himself an international celebrity overnight after he published his first novel, an unorthodox detective story set in a medieval monastery.

"He was an extraordinary example of European intellectualism, uniting a unique intelligence of the past with an inexhaustible capacity to anticipate the future," Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency Ansa.

For the professor from Bologna University, then aged 48, it was a late introduction into the world of international literary fame and one that took many critics by surprise.

“The "Name of the Rose", with its highly detailed description of life in a 14th-century monastery and learned accounts of the philosophical and religious disputes of the time, at face value was hardly a novel to appeal to the average modern reader.

But the book's popularity lay in a clever plot line, the masterfully evoked atmosphere of fear and gloom brooding over the monastery, and the attractive central figure, unashamedly modeled on the famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

As the novel opens an aging priest, anxious to record the story before he dies, looks back on events that took place in 1327 when as an 18-year-old novice he visited a sinister Italian monastery with his master, Brother William of Baskerville.   Continued...

 
Italian writer Umberto Eco poses during the presentation of his novel "The Cemetery of Prague" in Madrid, in this December 13, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Andrea Comas