Umberto Eco - review (1 star)

Umberto Eco

Turning Back the Clock (Harvill Secker)

Umberto Eco likes to think of himself as disagreeable. Being described as such, he says, ‘fills me with pride and virtuous satisfaction.’ To this end, he exhorts readers to, among other things, insult the dead, ritually sacrifice presidents, choose their own judge, and boycott products sold on state-owned television channels. None of which, it could possibly be argued, is entirely unreasonable or disagreeable.

What is disagreeable – more irritating, really – is Eco’s tone. Supercilious, ponderous, petulant, and almost entirely lacking in humour, he deems the entire southern US to be populated by morons, informs us that not all suicide bombers are Muslim (did anyone think they were?), and dismisses dissenters as fools and infantile idiots. He’s not entirely without generosity, though. Writing on death, he comments that although they may not leave anything of particular note behind, even ‘the humblest creature’ can achieve immortality by passing on tales of his experience to the children. How magnanimous. (Katie Gould)

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