To begin, I extend my apologies to Umberto Eco that I cannot write this post in Italian. One day I will learn that beautiful language.
Umberto Eco, not only one of the most well-known scholars but also one of the best-selling novelists in the world, turns 80 today.
The king of semiotics, Eco has also contributed to a dizzying number of other sub-disciplines in the humanities, not just in linguistics and translation, but also literature and literary theory, medieval studies and philosophy, art and architecture. In honor of his 80th birthday, I pick one book and one quotation as an attempt to dip into his thought.
To pick one book from Eco's massive bibliography (which is matched only by his massive personal library of anywhere from 30,000-50,000 volumes, according to one interview), consider his The Infinity of Lists (or The Vertigo of Lists as originally titled in Italian). Part of my interest in Eco is his obsession with lists, one I share. Lists are just so useful for organizing, chronicling, and enjoying life. In the same interview, Eco argues that listing is a preferable alternative to defining.
To pick one quotation from Eco, also from the interview already mentioned, consider this thought in your own effort to accumulate knowledge and navigate the overwhelming quantity of books it seems that one must read to be cultured: "Culture isn't knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes."