Umberto Eco published his first novel, The Name of the
Rose, in 1980, when he was nearly fifty. In these
"confessions," the author, now in his late seventies, looks back on
his long career as a theorist and his more recent work as a
novelist, and explores their fruitful conjunction.
He begins by exploring the boundary between fiction and
nonfiction-playfully, seriously, brilliantly roaming across this
frontier. Good nonfiction, he believes, is crafted like a
whodunnit, and a skilled novelist builds precisely detailed worlds
through observation and research. Taking us on a tour of his own
creative method, Eco recalls how he designed his fictional realms.
He began with specific images, made choices of period, location,
and voice, composed stories that would appeal to both sophisticated
and popular readers. The blending of the real and the fictive
extends to the inhabitants of such invented worlds. Why are we
moved to tears by a character's plight? In what sense do Anna
Karenina, Gregor Samsa, and Leopold Bloom "exist"?
At once a medievalist, philosopher, and scholar of modern
literature, Eco astonishes above all when he considers the
pleasures of enumeration. He shows that the humble list, the
potentially endless series, enables us to glimpse the infinite and
approach the ineffable. This "young novelist" is a master who has
wise things to impart about the art of fiction and the power of