The world lost two of its most important writers today, Friday February 19, 2016: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco. I offer this small post in remembrance of their brilliance.
Umberto Eco was a renowned professor of semiotics, the study of language and signs, as well as a best-selling novelist, and he died at the age of 84. He is probably best known outside of the academic world for his novel The Name of the Rose and the successful Hollywood film based on it, which starred Sean Connery. The book was, on the surface, a medieval murder mystery that was heavily influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his great detective Sherlock Holmes. It was also a multi-layered exploration of the medieval as well as the contemporary world. Eco incorporated a difficult series of puzzles and codes within the text by utilizing his knowledge of semiotics, and his labyrinthine library was based on the writing of Jorge Luis Borges. The Name Of The Rose established Eco’s career as a novelist, which he followed up with books like Foucault’s Pendulum. His writing entertains on the surface and then challenges the reader to delve deeply into intellectual exploration of the world.
Harper Lee, the novelist whose seminal work on racism and justice in America To Kill A Mockingbird, also died today. She was 89 years old. Her book focused attention on racism and the lack of justice in southern small-town America as well as the attempt by her hero Atticus Finch to fight for the life of a black man accused of raping a young white woman. This book, and the enormously successful film based on her novel by the same name and starring Gregory Peck, a powerful adaptation, are both beloved and masterpieces of literature and film. In 2015, Lee released a book that can be seen as a sequel, prequel, or adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird—Go Set A Watchman.
As a reader, I have loved their writings. I have also used To Kill A Mockingbird and The Name Of The Rose in my college classes. Both books presented challenges to my students as well as great rewards for the studying of them.
The world has lost two powerful and deeply important writers.
Rest in Peace: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.