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On the Shoulders of Giants

On the Shoulders of Giants

Umberto Eco

Translated by Alastair McEwen

ISBN 9780674240896

Publication date: 10/22/2019

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A posthumous collection of essays by one of our greatest contemporary thinkers that provides a towering vision of Western culture.

In Umberto Eco’s first novel, The Name of the Rose, Nicholas of Morimondo laments, “We no longer have the learning of the ancients, the age of giants is past!” To which the protagonist, William of Baskerville, replies: “We are dwarfs, but dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of those giants, and small though we are, we sometimes manage to see farther on the horizon than they.”

On the Shoulders of Giants is a collection of essays based on lectures Eco famously delivered at the Milanesiana Festival in Milan over the last fifteen years of his life. Previously unpublished, the essays explore themes he returned to again and again in his writing: the roots of Western culture and the origin of language, the nature of beauty and ugliness, the potency of conspiracies, the lure of mysteries, and the imperfections of art. Eco examines the dynamics of creativity and considers how every act of innovation occurs in conversation with a superior ancestor.

In these playful, witty, and breathtakingly erudite essays, we encounter an intellectual who reads comic strips, reflects on Heraclitus, Dante, and Rimbaud, listens to Carla Bruni, and watches Casablanca while thinking about Proust. On the Shoulders of Giants reveals both the humor and the colossal knowledge of a contemporary giant.

Praise

  • Magisterial lectures…Throughout his mature work Eco is on a quest for real meaning, which makes him so relevant for our times…The man proves a rare human spectacle: at once immensely erudite and genuinely humble; aware of his intellectual stature and yet self-deprecating; creator of sophisticated literary and intellectual worlds, and yet a strikingly unpretentious mind.

    —Costica Bradatan, Los Angeles Review of Books

Authors

  • Umberto Eco (1932–2016) was an internationally acclaimed writer, philosopher, medievalist, and professor, and the author of the best-selling novels Foucault’s Pendulum, The Name of the Rose, and The Prague Cemetery, as well as children’s books. His numerous nonfiction books include Confessions of a Young Novelist, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, and The Open Work (all from Harvard). He was a recipient of the Premio Strega, Italy’s highest literary prize; the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities; and a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur from the government of France.
  • Alastair McEwen is an award-winning literary translator. After nearly forty years in Italy he now lives in his native Scotland.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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