Umberto Eco on Lists

I have written several timed on the poetry of the list, particularly with reference to the writing of Georges Perec, so I enjoyed what Umberto Eco had to say on the subject in an interview with Spiegel, a piece to which Dave Humphrey directed me this afternoon.  You should read the interview yourself, so I will not say very much about it.  I will just list the following ideas that I think deserve some future discussion.

1. “The list is the origin of culture.”

2. “How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists.”

3. “The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it.”

4. “We like Lists because we don’t want to die.”

5. “I like lists for the same reason other people like football or pedophilia. People have their preferences.”

6. “The list is the mark of a highly advanced, cultivated society because a list allows us to question the essential definitions.”

Of course. Eco has much more to say about lists than a list could convey, about education and about culture and about libraries and about many other things, so you should take this list only as an invitation to read further.

1 comment
  1. His referral to culture is so interesting- it took me to think of the genealogical lists in Luke 2, where the lines of descent listing the patriarchs and matriarchs are an historical device which relates the events as subtext through the context of the characters it is listing.

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