Umberto Eco on what makes an idiot
In an interview published in Speigel yesterday, Umberto Eco argues, among other things, that humans create lists because we’re afraid to die.
He also talks about his library, which the interviewer thought to contain about 30,000 volumes:
I’m afraid that, by now, it might actually be 50,000 books. When my secretary wanted to catalogue them, I asked her not to. My interests change constantly, and so does my library. By the way, if you constantly change your interests, your library will constantly be saying something different about you. Besides, even without a catalogue, I’m forced to remember my books. I have a hallway for literature that’s 70 meters long. I walk through it several times a day, and I feel good when I do. Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes.
My favorite lines were the last two, when he declines to make a list of things he loves or does not love:
If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you’re an idiot.
memento Mori, “To This Favour” by William Michael Harnett, originally uploaded by pirano.