Kate Gould's Reviews > Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism

Turning Back the Clock by Umberto Eco
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Feb 18, 10


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, amongst 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 morons, informs us that not all suicide bombers are Muslim (did anyone think they were?), and dismisses any dissenters as fools and infantile idiots.

He is not entirely without generosity. Writing on immortality, he comments that, though they may not leave anything of particular note behind, even “the humblest creature” can achieve immortality by passing on tales of his experience to his children. How magnanimous.
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