On Literature Paperback – 5 Jan 2006
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"Appropriately rich and chaotic" (Sunday Times)
"His most personal book so far...this book speaks loudly and persuasively of the redemptive properties of good writing. This book is both a large statement about literary aesthetics and the elliptical spiritual autobiography of a major novelist. Eco writes with characteristic intelligence, clarity, enthusiasm and charm. He seems incapable of writing a dull paragraph, or a wrong-headed one" (Scotland on Sunday)
"An exciting, ecstatic work of criticism" (Guardian)
"A good deal of intellectual athleticism on display... Eco is a scintillating lecturer, and an elegant journalist... At his most mercurial" (Independent)
"On Literature is a provocative and entertaining collection of sprightly essays on the key texts that have shaped Eco the novelist and critic" (The Book People)
'A man of robust intellect and genuine erudition...Eco sparkles' - Daily TelegraphSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The book opens on an essay on the purpose of literature, and touches topics as varied as Dante's 'Paradise', the style of the Communist Manifesto, Oscar Wilde's aphorisms, Nerval's setting of his short story 'Sylvie', and Jorge Luis Borges.
Being an international expert in semiotics, it is good to see essays on symbols, intertextual irony and myth. The book ends on a description on how he writes, with specific references to some of his novels.
The essays are not particularly difficult, and if you're interested in literature (in the largest possible sense) you will find them enjoyable.
In the first essay "On Some Functions of Literature", he concludes that "above all, literature keeps language alive as our collective heritage ... by helping to create language, literature creates a sense of identity and community". He proceeds to look at the ways in which "electronic hypertext" has changed how language works in the world of "free creative writing", ending by commenting that "...one of the principal functions of literature lies in these lessons about fate and death". All this in fifteen pages of a lecture delivered in Mantua in 2000.
In later chapters Joyce, the Communist Manifesto, La Mancha and Babel and Oscar Wilde follow. On Symbolism, he suggests; " ... the ambiguity of symbols comes from their distant roots" and that in mainly scholarly settings, "we use the expression 'symbol' to indicate semiotic processes that are extremely clear and incontrovertible, objects that are not ambiguous but, rather aim at being read in the most univocal way possible". In this chapter and the next "On Style", he is very much on home ground although I have yet to discover areas in which he does not seem very much at home with his feet under the table.
Fascinating but not light reading.