Saturday 20 September 2014

José Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, and libraries

Some days ago José Luis Munoz had passed on to me a piece by José Luis Borges called "The Library of Babel." A not-always-easy-to-read surrealist piece by someone who does not easily 'believe' in a absolute truth, or even simply in truth, except perhaps the truth of what he himself is saying. A labyrinthine piece about a labyrinthine library. What was surprising and interesting this morning was to learn from José Luis Munoz that Umberto Eco was an admirer of Borges, and that his In the Name of the Rose was in some way modelled on this piece of Borges'. At the centre of this novel is, of course, a famous and labyrinthine library; the sub-text is late medieval nominalism; and the librarian is blind, like Borges who seems to have turned blind towards the end of his life.

Even more surprising was to learn that Eco is a Salesian past pupil, and that he continues to write with admiration about Don Bosco. I had known that Eco used to be an ardent member of Azione Cattolica, and that he had subsequently dropped out of active belief, for whatever reason. But that he had written about Don Bosco, and that he still admires our saint, came as something of a surprise. 

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