×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Umberto Eco, ‘The Name of the Rose’ Author, Dies at 84

ROME — Italian academic and author Umberto Eco, who became a global pop culture superstar with his first novel, the medieval murder mystery “The Name of the Rose,” adapted into a movie starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater, died Saturday at his home in Milan. He was 84.

The cause of death has not been disclosed.

Eco was a scholar of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols and their social and cultural significance. It can be applied to words and images, therefore all types of icons — from religious ones to advertising, to traffic signs — and also clothes, music, film, comic books. This gave him a particular sensitivity that allowed him to infuse scholarly and popular cultures and became the trademark of his success.

“Mickey Mouse can be perfect in the [same] sense that a Japanese haiku is,” Eco told the Guardian in a 2002 interview.

Born Jan. 5, 1932, in the city of Alessandria, in Italy’s northwest, Eco emerged as a star student and young writer during Fascism. Then, after World War II, he joined a Catholic youth organization and became its national leader, before veering more to the left and resigning in protest against the conservatism of Pope Pius XII. He studied medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin, where he lectured from 1956 to 1964, and went on to teach philosophy and semiotics at the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university.

Eco also worked at Italian state broadcaster RAI and became a columnist, writing about pop culture and politics in L’Espresso, Italy’s top weekly magazine. He published nonfiction books, most notably a brief essay titled “Fenomenologia di Mike Bongiorno,” analysing the success of Italy’s most popular TV host.

In 1980 Eco made the transition to fiction with “The Name of the Rose,” set in a 14th century northern Italian monastery where monks are being mysteriously murdered. A Franciscan monk, played by Sean Connery in the movie, is sent to investigate the killings which turn out to be tied to heresy and a treatise by Aristotle which the murderers believe is an instrument of Satan.

The more than 500-page-long book, which devotes entire chapters to the intricacies of Christian theology, sold north of 10 million copies in some 30 languages. The 1986 movie by Jean-Jacques Annaud instead drew mixed responses. It was a critical and box office flop in the U.S. but was received warmly in Europe where it performed well and became a cult title. Variety called it “a sorrowfully mediocre screen version of Umberto Eco’s surprise international bestselling novel.”  It also spawned a board and a video game.

No other movie adaptations were made of Eco’s subsequent six novels, even though most of them sold widely, while never equalling “Rose” sales. They include “Foucault’s Pendulum,” considered the prototype to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” “Baudolino,” which mixes history and fantasy and is set during the 12th century sack of Constantinople, and his 2015 final novel  “Numero Zero,” a satire on contemporary Italian tabloid media considered to have an anti-Berlusconi sub-text. Eco was a staunch Silvio Berlusconi critic.

Eco is survived by his German wife Renate Ramage and their two children, Stefano, a television producer, and Carlotta, an architect.

More Film

  • Noe Debre On His Directorial Debut,

    Top French Screenwriter Noe Debre Make Directorial Debut, ‘The Seventh Continent’

    This last half-decade, few French screenwriters have run up such an illustrious list of co-write credits as Noé Debré. Thomas Bedigain’s writing partner on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Deephan,” Debra co-penned Bedigain’s own debut, “The Cowboys,” “Racer and the Jailbird,” by Michael Roskam, and “Le Brio,” directed by Yvan Attal. He has now [...]

  • Julien Trauman Talks Survival-Thriller Short ‘At

    Julien Trauman on Survival-Thriller Short ‘At Dawn’

    France’s Julien Trauman has never been afraid to play with genre, and in his latest short, the MyFrenchFilmFestival participant “At Dawn,” he employs aspects of psychological thriller, survival, coming-of-age and fantasy filmmaking. “At Dawn” kicks off the night before when a group of teens, one about to leave town, are imbibing heavily around a beach-side [...]

  • ‘Flowers’ Director Baptiste Petit-Gats Interview

    Baptiste Petit-Gats: ‘Editing Taught Me How to Write for Film’

    France’s Baptiste Petit-Gats is an hyphenate that keeps himself plenty busy editing, photographing, writing and directing. The bulk of his editing gigs up until now have been in documentary film work, evident in the way he shot and edited his own short film, participating in the MyFrenchFilmFestival, “Flowers.” In the film, Petit-Gats tells the heartbreaking [...]

  • Fanny Litard, Jérémy Trouilh on ‘Blue

    France’s Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh Discuss MyFFF Suburban Fable ‘Blue Dog’

    French filmmakers Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh met at university while studying political science before diverging towards separate careers. Trouilh trained in documentary filmmaking; Liatard worked on urban artistic projects in Lebanon and France. They eventually joined back up to film three shorts: “Gagarine,” a Sundance Channel Shorts Competition Jury Prize winner in 2016; “The [...]

  • MFFF: 'The Collection' Director Blanchard Readies

    'The Collection' Director Emmanuel Blanchard Readies First Feature

    Paris-born Emmanuel Blanchard studied and then taught history before becoming a documentary filmmaker responsible for films such as “Bombing War,” “Le diable de la République” and “Après la guerre.” He’s currently directing “Notre-Dame de Paris”, a 90-minute animated part-doc, part-fiction film on the building of the world-famous Paris cathedral. Competing at MyFFF, “The Collection” is [...]

  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly

    Film Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’

    Late in “Dragon Ball Super: Broly,” the 20th Japanese anime feature in a 35-year-old franchise that also has spawned scads of TV series, trading cards, video games, mangas, and limited-edition collectibles, a supporting character complains, “I don’t understand a single thing you’ve said the whole time.” If you’re among the heretofore uninitiated drawn to this [...]

  • Loco Films Boards 'Paper Flag' From

    Loco Films Boards 'Paper Flag' From Promising New Director Nathan Ambrosioni (EXCLUSIVE)

    Loco Films has come on board “Paper Flag” (“Les Papiers de drapeaux”), the feature debut of 18-year old French director Nathan Ambrosioni. The film explores the ambivalent relationship between two siblings and the concept of freedom. Guillaume Gouix (“The Returned”) stars as a young adult who has just got out of jail after 12 years [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content