Italian author Umberto Eco dies aged 84

The revered literary critic, author and essayist most famous for 1980 novel Name of the Rose has died at home

The novelist and intellectual Umberto Eco has died, aged 84, according to reports. Eco, who was perhaps best known for his 1980 work the Name of the Rose, was one of the worlds most revered literary names.

He was the 1992-3 Norton professor at Harvard and taught semiotics at Bologna University and once suggested that writing novels was a mere part-time occupation, saying: I am a philosopher; I write novels only on the weekends.

The Name of the Rose was Ecos first novel but he had been publishing works for more than 20 years beforehand.

He discussed his approach to writing in an interview at a Guardian Live event in London last year. I dont know what the reader expects, he said. I think that Barbara Cartland writes what the readers expect. I think an author should write what the reader does not expect. The problem is not to ask what they need, but to change them to produce the kind of reader you want for each story.

Eco was born in Alessandria, in the northern Italian region of Piedmont and went to a Salesian school. He developed an interest in medieval philosophy and literature and studied the subjects at the University of Turin in the 1950s. It was around that time that the he turned his back on the Catholic church.

He went on to work for the Italian broadcaster Rai and began to lecture at his alma mater. Ecos first book an extension of his doctoral thesis – was published in 1956. Six years later, he married the academic Renate Ramge.

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