Umberto Eco Dies at 84; Leaves Behind Advice to Aspiring Writers

Umberto Eco, the Italian semiotician, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist — and, of course, author of Foucault’s Pendulum – has died at his home in Milan. He was 84.

Eco’s passing adds some poignancy to a video he recorded just last year, on behalf of The Louisiana Channel, a media outlet based, of all places, in Denmark. In the clip above, Eco gives some counsel to aspiring writers: Keep your ego in check, and your ambitions, realistic. Put in the time and the hard work, and don’t shoot for the Nobel Prize in Literature straight out of the gate. That, Eco says, kills every literary career. And remember that writing is “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” They’re truisms–you discover after spending decades as a writer–that turn out to be true. That confirmation is one of the gifts he leaves behind.

Related Content:

Umberto Eco’s How To Write a Thesis: A Witty, Irreverent & Highly Practical Guide Now Out in English

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Comments (6)
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  • Morten says:

    “of all places, in Denmark”? Explain, please :-)

  • Windsor Viney says:

    Why Denmark “of all places”? You’re not usually so . . . provincial. A moment’s enquiry would have led you to the first sentence here:


  • Joan says:

    Something is rotten in the state of Denmark…

  • Ron Andrews says:

    Nice post, thanks, but sad to see Eco leave us. I just added a few books to my re-read list.

    Maybe instead of being rather US-centric, though, and making assumptions about the readers here, it’s perhaps better to just add a brief note or link in parentheses after mentioning the Louisiana Channel, showing the channel’s tie to the very well-known museum, thus further helping to expand readers’ understanding and knowledge.

    If you ever have a chance, I highly recommend visiting the Louisiana MOMA. Great museum and beautiful setting, with a clear view of Sweden across the sound, not to mention great exhibits too. Please remember that not all readers here are located in the States. We’re all over the world, and many of us have indeed heard of and been to the museum here, perhaps readers of Open Culture even more so.

  • Domingo Soria says:

    Eco was one of the few remaining encyclopedic writers that could produce a masterpiece about science, religion, history or any subject he set his mind on. In our world of today where style reigns supreme over substance, Eco was able to write with beauty and propriety. He will be greatly missed.

  • d block says:

    Wow this is so weird I’ve been thinking a lot about Eco for some reason. About his work and life. That’s very strange. Big fan and it’s sad to hear he died.

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