Inventing the Enemy: Essays
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Inventing the Enemy covers a wide range of topics on which Eco has written and lectured over the past ten years: from a disquisition on the theme that runs through his recent novel The Prague Cemetery — every country needs an enemy, and if it doesn’t have one, must invent it — to a discussion of ideas that have inspired his earlier novels (and in the process he takes us on an exploration of lost islands, mythical realms, and the medieval world); from indignant reviews of James Joyce’s Ulysses by fascist journalists of the 1920s and 1930s, to an examination of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s notions about the soul of an unborn child, to censorship and violence and WikiLeaks.
These are essays full of passion, curiosity, and obsession by one of the world’s most esteemed scholars and critically acclaimed, best-selling novelists.
“True wit and wisdom coexist with fierce scholarship inside Umberto Eco, a writer who actually knows a thing or two about being truly human.” — Buffalo News
"Thought provoking . . . nuanced . . . the collection amply shows off Eco's sophisticated, agile mind." — Publishers Weekly
Table of Contents Title Page Table of Contents Copyright Introduction Inventing the Enemy Absolute and Relative The Beauty of the Flame Treasure Hunting Fermented Delights No Embryos in Paradise Hugo, Hélas!: The Poetics of Excess Censorship and Silence Imaginary Astronomies Living by Proverbs I Am Edmond Dantès! Ulysses: That’s All We Needed . . . Why the Island is Never Found Thoughts on WikiLeaks Footnotes First American edition Copyright © 2011 by RCS Libri S.p.A.
correct: Victor Hugo was not a madman who believed he was Victor Hugo—Victor Hugo simply believed he was God, or at least his official interpreter. In Hugo there is always an excess in the description of earthly events, and an indomitable desire to see them always from God’s point of view. The taste for excess leads him to descriptions that become interminable lists, to the creation of characters whose psychological workings are always regarded as unsustainable, rough-hewn, but whose passions
time, and therefore perhaps a revenge of history, a childish antistrophe of that work of annihilating the past that is being carried out elsewhere by the guillotine. What is more, the title of the chapter that narrates this story is “The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew”—Hugo was always worried his readers weren’t quaking quite enough. But this gesture, due to its excess, can also be seen as symbolic. The children’s games are described in every detail for fifteen pages, and it is thanks to this
and it was a flat disc for Thales and for Hecataeus of Miletus. It seemed less realistic to think it was spherical, as Pythagoras did, for mystical and mathematical reasons. The Pythagoreans had elaborated a complex planetary system in which the Earth was not even at the center of the universe. The sun was also at the edge of it, and all the planetary spheres rotated around a central fire. Each rotating sphere, moreover, produced a sound from a range of musical notes, and to establish an exact
alone remains ignorant; in other words, the plot has provided both him and the reader with the means of resolving the enigma, and the fact that he has failed to do so is inexplicable. The perfect example of the real idiot, used critically by authors, is the detective story in which the policeman offers a sharp contrast to the detective (who gains knowledge at the same rate that the reader does). But there are cases in which the idiot is falsely accused because the events themselves are of no help