Although The Name of the Rose is Umberto Eco’s first novel, his name is far from unfamiliar. Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and the author of several important works in the fields of cultural history, aesthetics, and the theory of signs. He has taught in American universities as well, and two of his books (A Theory of Semiotics and The Role of the Reader) have been published here. Although Eco’s Opera aperta (1962) is considered one of the theoretical bases for the work of the aggressively experimental Italian writers who gained notoriety in the early Sixties under the rubric “Gruppo ’63,” he himself has produced an entirely different kind of fiction: a “good read” (there is such a genre). The Name of the Rose is Italy’s most popular novel since Lampedusa’s Leopard, the success of which...


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