Umberto Eco Quotes


When I went from being an academic to being a member of the community of writers some of my former colleagues did look on me with a certain resentment.

Socrates ... did not write. It seems academically obvious that he perished because he did not publish!

[In my writing] I know that I have made a caricature out of [others' academic] theories [but] I think that caricatures are frequently good portraits.

Then we are living in a place abandoned by God I said disheartened. "Have you found any places where God would have felt at home?" William asked me looking down from his great height.

There is nothing more difficult to define than an aphorism.

... luckily Eden is soon populated. The ethical dimension begins when the other appears on the scene.

Nothing is more fleeting than external form which withers and alters like the flowers of the field at the appearance of autumn.

Translation is the art of failure.

Not bad not bad at all " Diotallevi said. "To arrive at the truth through the painstaking reconstruction of a false text.

All the religious wars that have caused blood to be shed for centuries arise from passionate feelings and facile counter-positions such as Us and Them good and bad white and black.

Narrativity presumes a special taste for plot. And this taste for plot was always very present in the Anglo-Saxon countries and that explains their high quality of detective novels.

The truth is an anagram of an anagram.

Creativity can only be anarchic capitalist Darwinian.

The Art of the Romance though warning us that it is providing fictions opens a door into the Palace of Absurdity and when we have lightly stepped inside slams it shut behind us.

There is no great sport in having bullets flying about one in every direction but I find they have less horror when among them than when in anticipation.

It takes a little time but the pleasures of cooking begin before the pleasures of the palate and preparing means anticipating ...

Not that the incredulous person doesn't believe in anything. It's just that he doesn't believe in everything.

Nothing gives a fearful man more courage than another's fear.

By means of the sign man frees himself from the here and now for abstraction.

The author may not interpret. But he must tell why and how he wrote his book.

The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text.

Authors frequently say things they are unaware of; only after they have gotten the reactions of their readers do they discover what they have said

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

That is a real attitude - to see everything as being meaningful even the less important things to prove something even the greater problems of life.

My father was an accountant and his father was a typographer.

The light in her eyes was beyond description yet it did not instill improper thoughts: it inspired a love tempered by awe purifying the hearts it inflamed.

The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away.

It is necessary to meditate early and often on the art of dying to succeed later in doing it properly just once.

I enjoyed your article but I preferred my own.

For many years I have devoted articles and essays to newspapers from the inside. So criticism of the newspapers was a topic that I practiced for a long time.

Is it possible to say "It was a beautiful morning at the end of November" without feeling like Snoopy?

Beauty has never been absolute and immutable but has taken on different aspects depending on the historical period and the country

The question of manuscript changes is very important for literary criticism the psychology of creation and other aspects of the study of literature.

I always assume that a good book is more intelligent than its author. It can say things that the writer is not aware of.

There are two kinds of friendship: one is genuine affection the other is inability to refuse.

Never affirm always allude: allusions are made to test the spirit and probe the heart.

The Enlightenment the Age of Reason is seen as the beginning of modern depravity.

I developed a passion for the Middle Ages the same way some people develop a passion for coconuts.

It was awkward revisiting a world you have never seen before: like coming home after a long journey to someone else's house.

The photograph [of Che Guevara] for a civilization now accustomed to thinking in images was not the description of a single event... it was an argument.

Entering a novel is like going on a climb in the mountains: You have to learn the rhythms of respiration - acquire the pace. Otherwise you stop right away.

My poetry had the same functional origin and the same formal configuration as teenage acne.

As an adolescent I wrote comic books because I read lots of them and fantasy novels set in Malaysia and Central Africa.

I have to admit that I only read 'War and Peace' when I was 40. But I knew the basics before then.

I felt no passion no jealousy no nostalgia. I was hollow clear-headed clean and as emotionless as an aluminum pot.

In other words although I don't like them we do need noble-spirited souls.

Absence is to love as wind is to fire: it extinguishes the little flame it fans the big.

Yes I know it's not the truth but in a great history little truths can be altered so that the greater truth emerges.

Ugliness is more inventive than beauty. Beauty always follows certain camps. I think it's more amusing - ugliness - than beauty.

Our life is full of empty space.

The more elusive and ambiguous a symbol is the more it gains significance and power.

The Roseicrucians were everywhere aided by the fact that they didn't exist.

There are four types: the cretin the imbecile the stupid and the mad. Normality is a balanced mixture of all four.

To read a paper book is another experience: you can do it on a ship on the branch of a tree on your bed even if there is a blackout.

History is a blood-drenched enigma and the world an error.

Better reality than a dream: if something is real then it's real and you're not to blame.

Conspiracies do exist. Probably in this moment in New York there is an economic group making a conspiracy in order to buy three banks. But if they succeed they are immediately discovered.

A sure sign of a lunatic is that sooner or later he brings up the Templars.

If people buy my books for vanity I consider it a tax on idiocy.

You die but most of what you have accumulated will not be lost; you are leaving a message in a bottle.

Books always speak of other books.

We live for books.

When one starts writing a book especially a novel even the humblest person in the world hopes to become Homer.

I think a book should be judged 10 years later after reading and re-reading it.

That day I began to be incredulous. Or rather I regretted having been credulous. I regretted having allowed myself to be borne away by a passion of the mind. Such is credulity.

You are always born under the wrong sign and to live in this world properly you have to rewrite your own horoscope day by day.

I love the smell of book ink in the morning.

He is always on the brink of suicide... because he seeks salvation through the routine formulas suggested to him by the society in which he lives.

The step between ecstatic vision and sinful frenzy is all too brief

I like nicotine because it excites my brain and helps me work.

Sometimes my characters are not myself.

Naturally everything depends on one's background books and on what one is looking for.

The only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

The real hero is always a hero by mistake.

The cultivated person's first duty is to be always prepared to rewrite the encyclopedia.

I think of myself as a serious professor who during the weekend writes novels.

He who falls in love in bars doesn't need a woman all his own. He can always find one on loan.

Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards; those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves and those bastards always talk about the purity of race.

One can be a great poet and be politically stupid.

Being a professional philosopher is I would say feeling natural to think about small and great problems. It is the only pleasure.

Once you reach your fifties you have to stop being interested in the present and write only on Elizabethan poets.

I have a good memory. But I would be interested in memory even if I had a bad memory because I believe that memory is our soul. If we lose our memory completely we are without a soul.

Deciding what is being talked about is a kind of interpretive bet.

It is sometimes hard to grasp the difference between identifying with one's own roots understanding people with other roots and judging what is good or bad.

I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings without ever being completely consumed.

The good of a book lies in its being read.

Whoever reflects on four things I would be better if he were never born: that which is above that which is below that which is before that which is after.

All poets write bad poetry. Bad poets publish them good poets burn them.

I was a fervent Catholic and I belonged to the national organizations even becoming one of the national leaders until the age of 21 22.

When men stop believing in God it isn't that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything.

Books are not made to be believed but to be subjected to inquiry.

Nothing can shake my belief that this world is the fruit of a dark god whose shadow I extend.

We like lists because we don't want to die.

Any fact becomes important when it's connected to another.

Beauty is boring because it is predictable.

Show not what has been done but what can be. How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.

How beautiful was the spectacle of nature not yet touched by the often perverse wisdom of man!

The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.

Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth for as a rule they make many others die with them often before them at times instead of them.

Two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us. For we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves and celebrating a reunion.

The French the Italians the Germans the Spanish and the English have spent centuries killing each other.

Whenever a poet or preacher chief or wizard spouts gibberish the human race spends centuries deciphering the message.

People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged.

There are more people than you think who want to have a challenging experience in which they are obliged to reflect about the past.

If you interact with things in your life everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes you're an idiot.

Writing doesn't mean necessarily putting words on a sheet of paper. You can write a chapter while walking or eating.

I consider always the adult life to be the continuous retrieval of childhood.

At a certain moment I decided to write a story. I had no more small children to tell them stories.

With all of its defects the global market makes war less likely even between the U.S.A. and China.

Man's principle trait is a readiness to believe anything. Otherwise how could the Church have survived for almost two thousand years in the absense of universal gullibility?

Every European goes on the streets and sees medieval churches. Not if you live in Indianapolis.

Every European goes on the streets and sees medieval churches. Not if you live in Indianapolis. The most exciting letters I received were from people in places like that.

The United States needed a civil war to unite properly.

How clear everything becomes when you look from the darkness of a dungeon.

We were clever enough to turn a laundry list into poetry.

A book is a fragile creature. It suffers the wear of time it fears rodents the elements clumsy hands.

If photography is to be likened to perception this is not because the former is a natural process but because the latter is also coded.

American coffee can be a pale solution served at a temperature of 100oC

My collection of rare books concerns only books that don't tell the truth.

Libraries have always been humanities' way of preserving its collective wisdom

Our most noted satirists are true columnists and their opinions can be worth more than any well-documented expose.

This in fact is the power of the imagination which combining the memory of gold with that of the mountain can compose the idea of a golden mountain.

The comic is the perception of the opposite; humor is the feeling of it.

I've always said that I learned the English I know through two sources -- Marvel Comics and Finnegans Wake.

Reflecting on these complex relationships between reader and story fiction and life can constitute a form of therapy against the sleep of reason which generates monsters.

Each of us is sometimes a cretin a fool a moron or a lunatic. A normal person is just a reasonable mix of these components these four ideal types.

What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.

The hand of God creates; it does not conceal.

libraries are fascinating places: sometimes you feel you are under the canopy of a railway station and when you read books about exotic places there's a feeling of travelling to distant lands

In short Roberto privately concluded if you would avoid wars never make treaties of peace.

But it has often happened that I have found the most seductive depictions of sin in the pages of those very men of incorruptible virtue who condemned their spell and their effects.

Followers of the occult believe in only what they already know and in those things that confirm what they have already learned.

The Fundamental Principle that governs - or ought to govern -human affairs if we wish to avoid misunderstandings conflicts or pointless utopias is negotiation.

If two things don't fit but you believe both of them thinking that somewhere hidden there must be a third thing that connects them that's credulity.

Then why do you want to know?""Because learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do but also of knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do.

Your masters at Oxford have taught you to idolize reason drying up the prophetic capacities of your heart!

Conspiracies and all the theories of conspiracy are a part of the canon of fakes. And I'm involved in all of my writings the theoretical ones as well as the novels with the production of fakes.

I write stories about conspiracies and paranoid characters while I am in fact a very skeptical person.

I have always been fascinated by paranoid people imagining conspiracies. I am fascinated by this in a critical way.

In the construction of Immortal Fame you need first of all a cosmic shamelessness.

I am an old consumer of papers. I cannot avoid reading my newspapers every morning.

Contemporary societies have lost the sense of the feast but have kept the obscure drive for it.

People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction.

But laughter is weakness corruption the foolishness of our flesh.

We invented the car and it made it easier for us to crash and die. If I gave a car to my grandfather he would die in five minutes while I have grown up slowly to accept speed.

There is only one thing that you write for yourself and that is a shopping list.

And what would we be we sinful creatures without fear perhaps the most foresighted the most loving of the divine gifts?

A democratic civilization will save itself only if it makes the language of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection - not an invitation for hypnosis.

The mobile phone... is a tool for those whose professions require a fast response such as doctors or plumbers.

A mystic is a hysteric who has met her confessor before her doctor.

Monsters exist because they are part of the divine plan and in the horrible features of those same monsters the power of the creator is revealed.

If somebody writes a book and doesn't care for the survival of that book he's an imbecile.

The problem with the Internet is that it gives you everything - reliable material and crazy material. So the problem becomes how do you discriminate?

The wise man does not discriminate; he gathers all the shreds of light from wherever they may come...

We have a limit a very discouraging humiliating limit: death.

A great problem of the internet is how to filter information how to discard what is not relevant or what is silly and to keep only the important information.

National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred on hatred for those who are not the same.

If western culture is shown to be rich it is because even before the Enlightenment it has tried to 'dissolve' harmful simplifications through inquiry and the critical mind.

Daytime sleep is like the sin of the flesh; the more you have the more you want and yet you feel unhappy sated and unsated at the same time.

For the enemy to be recognized and feared he has to be in your home or on your doorstep.

There are books on our shelves we haven't read and doubtless never will that each of us has probably put to one side in the belief that we will read them later on perhaps even in another life.

I love the secrecy of writing fiction. When I write a novel I don't tell anybody what I'm doing. I'm living in my private world. And it's a great sensation.

What is life if not the shadow of a fleeting dream?

New Orleans is not in the grip of a neurosis of a denied past; it passes out memories generously like a great lord; it doesn't have to pursue "the real thing.

We live for books. A sweet mission in this world dominated by disorder and decay.

When someone has to intervene to defend the liberty of the press that society is sick.

Fools are in great demand especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation. In their positive form they become diplomats.

The belief that time is a linear directed sequence running from A to B is a modern illusion. In fact it can also go from B to A the effect producing the cause.

It comes down to a question of attention: it's difficult to use the Net distractedly unlike the television or the radio.

I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing.

After all the fundamental question of philosophy (like that of psychoanalysis) is the same as the question of the detective novel: who is guilty?

Books are menaced by books. Any excess of information produces silence.

In the United States there's a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success. He who is successful is good. In Latin countries in Catholic countries a successful person is a sinner.

In the United States politics is a profession whereas in Europe it is a right and a duty .

But Italy is not an intellectual country. On the subway in Tokyo everybody reads. In Italy they don't. Don't evaluate Italy from the fact that it produced Raphael and Michelangelo.

To establish what is true is very difficult. Frequently it is easier to establish what is false. And passing through the false it's possible to understand something about truth.

Every man is obsessed by the memories of his own youth.

Today political events are nullified unless they're on TV.

Hypotyposis is the rhetorical effect by which words succeed in rendering a visual scene.

...we can only add to the world where we believe it ends more parts similar to those we already know (an expanse made again and always of water and land stars and skies).

Love flourishes in expectation. Expectation strolls through the spacious fields of Time towards Opportunity.

A secret is powerful when it is empty.

Yesterday's rose endures in its name we hold empty names.

I don't see the point of having 80 million people online if all they are doing in the end is talking to ghosts in the suburbs.

What we honor as prudence in our elders is simply panic in action.

He had prepared his death much earlier in his imagination unaware that his imagination more creative than he was planning the reality of that death.

Every great thinker is someone else's moron.

The function of memory is not only to preserve but also to throw away. If you remembered everything from your entire life you would be sick.

From lies to forgeries the step is not so long and I have written technical essays on the logic of forgeries and on the influence of forgeries on history.

When your true enemies are too strong you have to choose weaker enemies.

But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.

There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins fools morons and lunatics.

A library's ideal function is to be a little bit like a bouquiniste's stall a place for trouvailles.

I am not on Facebook and on Twitter because the purpose of my life is to avoid messages. I receive too many messages from the world and so I try to avoid that.

but I had also learned that freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.

Even today I frequently meet scientists who outside their own narrow discipline are superstitious.

I have lost the freedom of not having an opinion.

The followers must feel besieged.

As a scholar I am interested in the philosophy of language semiotics call it what you want and one of the main features of the human language is the possibility of lying.

I felt like poisoning a monk.

I'm always fascinated by losers. Also in my "Foucault's Pendulum " the main characters who are in a way losers they are more interesting than the winners.

No importa la fe que ofrece determinado movimiento sino la esperanza que propone

True learning must not be content with ideas which are in fact signs but must discover things in their individual truth.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.

If you want to use television to teach somebody you must first teachthem how to use television.

You cannot escape one infinite I told myself by fleeing to another. You cannot escape the revelation of the identical by taking refuge in the illusion of the multiple.

Memory is a stopgap for humans for whom time flies and what is passed is passed.

For Mallarmé naming an object meant suppressing three-quarters of its poetic pleasure (which consists in the joy of guessing bit by bit - "le suggérer voilà le rêve!").

A novel is a machine for generating interpretations.

A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would have not written a novel which is a machine for generating interpretations.

I don't miss my youth. I'm glad I had one but I wouldn't like to start over.

It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification and the hope provided by religion.

We are always remaking history. Our memory is always an interpretive reconstruction of the past so is perspective.

Homer's work hits again and again on the topos of the inexpressible. People will always do that.

There are more books in the world than hours in which to read them. We are thus deeply influenced by books we haven't read that we haven't had the time to read.

Books are not made to be believed but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book we mustn't ask ourselves what it says but what it means...

Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth to make truth laugh because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth.

Young people do not watch television; they are on the Internet.

Because of lies we can produce and invent a possible world.

I lacked the courage to investigate the weaknesses of the wicked because I discovered they are the same as the weaknesses of the saintly.

I feel that I am a scholar who only with the left hand writes novels.

I could work in the shower if I had plastic paper.

I was in a maze. No matter which way I turned it was the wrong way.

You'll come back To me . . . It's written in the stars you see you'll come back. You'll come back it's a fact that I am strong because I do believe in you.

Where else? I belong to a lost generation and am comfortable only in the company of others who are lost and lonely.

All of us were slowly losing that intellectual light that allows you always to tell the similar from the identical the metaphorical from the real.

I am a professor who writes novels on Sundays

When the poet is in love he is incapable of writing poetry on love. He has to write when he remembers that he was in love.

I suspect that there is no serious scholar who doesn't like to watch television. I'm just the only one who confesses

Listening doesn't mean trying to understand. Anything however trifling may be of use one day. What matters is to know something that others don't know you know.

Love is wiser than wisdom.

Libraries can take the place of God.

After years of practice I can walk into a bookstore and understand its layout in a few seconds. I can glance at the spine of a book and make a good guess at its content from a number of signs.

It is a myth of publishers that people want to read easy things.

Mystical additions and subtractions always come out the way you want.

To survive you must tell stories.

The truth is a young maiden as modest as she is beautiful and therefore she is always seen cloaked.

I started to write [ The Name of the Rose ] in March of 1978 moved by a seminal idea. I wanted to poison a monk.

Simple mechanisms do not love.

An idea you have might not be original. But by creating a novel out of that idea you can make it original.

And so I fell devoutly asleep and slept a long time because young people seem to need sleep more than the old who have already slept so much and are preparing to sleep for all eternity.

When you are on the dancefloor there is nothing to do but dance.

It is obvious that the newspaper produces the opinion of the readers.

I don't want to write a novel per year. I know that I need a break of one or two years. So maybe I invent some new urgent activity so I don't fall into the trap of starting a new novel.

Perhaps I am not as wise as I like to think I am.

You tell me these two were my parents so now I know but it's a memory that you've given me. I'll remember the photo from now on but not them.

The poets did not win; the philosophers surrendered.

I don't know maybe we're always looking for the right place maybe it's within reach but we don't recognize it. Maybe to recognize it we have to believe in it.

Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books and every story tells a story that has already been told.

When the writer (or the artist in general) says he has worked without giving any thought to the rules of the process he simply means he was working without realizing he knew the rules.

I wrote a novel because I had a yen to do it. I believe this is sufficient reason to set out to tell a story.

A dream is a scripture and many scriptures are nothing but dreams.

I seal that which was not to be said in the tomb that I become.

But the purpose of a story is to teach and to please at once and what it teaches is how to recognize the snares of the world.

I write what I write.