240 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.62 in
September 24, 2013
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0544104684
ISBN - 13: 9780544104686
Read from the Book
Introduction The title of this collection should really have been the subtitle, Occasional Writings. It was only my publisher’s proper concern—that such a pompously modest title might not attract the reader’s attention, whereas the title of the first essay may arouse curiosity—that determined the final choice. What are occasional writings and what are their virtues? They are generally on topics about which the author had no specific interest. He was, instead, encouraged to write each one after being invited to contribute to a series of discussions or essays on a particular theme. It captured the author’s interest and encouraged him to reflect on something he might otherwise have ignored—and often a subject imposed from outside turns out to be more fruitful than one arising from some inner whim. Another virtue of occasional writing is that it does not demand originality at all costs, but aims to entertain the speaker as well as the listener. In short, occasional writing is an exercise in baroque rhetoric, as when Roxane sets challenges for Christian (and through him, for Cyrano), such as “speak to me of love.” At the end of each essay (all written over the past decade) I note the date and occasion. To emphasize their occasional nature I should mention that “Absolute and Relative” and “The Beauty of the Flame” were presented during the Milanesiana festival of literature, an event centered on a specific theme. It provided an interesting opportunity to talk about the
Table of Contents
Inventing the Enemy 1
Absolute and Relative 22
The Beauty of the Flame 44
Treasure Hunting 67
Fermented Delights 78
No Embryos in Paradise 88Hugo, Hélas!:
The Poetics of Excess 97
Censorship and Silence 126
Imaginary Astronomies 134
Living by Proverbs 162
I Am Edmond Dantès! 170Ulysses:
That’s All We Needed . . . 185
Why the Island Is Never Found 192
Thoughts on WikiLeaks 217
From the Publisher
Underscores the writer's profound erudition, lively wit, and passion for ideas of all shapes and sizes . . . Eco's pleasure in such explorations is obvious and contagious." - Booklist
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 "
About the Author
UMBERTO ECO is the author of five novels and numerous essay collections, including The Name of the Rose, The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy's highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
"This selection underscores the writer’s profound erudition, lively wit, and passion for ideas of all shapes and sizes...these occasional writings touch upon potentially provocative topics of contemporary interest...Eco’s pleasure in such explorations is obvious and contagious."
"Thought provoking...nuanced...the collection amply shows off Eco's sophisticated, agile mind
"Inventing the Enemy is definitely sublime
"--San Francisco Chronicle Book Review