Confessions of a Young Novelist - The Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature (Hardback)
  • Confessions of a Young Novelist - The Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature (Hardback)

Confessions of a Young Novelist - The Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature (Hardback)

Hardback 240 Pages
Published: 25/04/2011
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Umberto Eco published his first novel, The Name of the Rose, in 1980, when he was nearly fifty. In these “confessions,” the author, now in his late seventies, looks back on his long career as a theorist and his more recent work as a novelist, and explores their fruitful conjunction.

He begins by exploring the boundary between fiction and nonfiction—playfully, seriously, brilliantly roaming across this frontier. Good nonfiction, he believes, is crafted like a whodunnit, and a skilled novelist builds precisely detailed worlds through observation and research. Taking us on a tour of his own creative method, Eco recalls how he designed his fictional realms. He began with specific images, made choices of period, location, and voice, composed stories that would appeal to both sophisticated and popular readers. The blending of the real and the fictive extends to the inhabitants of such invented worlds. Why are we moved to tears by a character’s plight? In what sense do Anna Karenina, Gregor Samsa, and Leopold Bloom “exist”?

At once a medievalist, philosopher, and scholar of modern literature, Eco astonishes above all when he considers the pleasures of enumeration. He shows that the humble list, the potentially endless series, enables us to glimpse the infinite and approach the ineffable. This “young novelist” is a master who has wise things to impart about the art of fiction and the power of words.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674058699
Number of pages: 240
Dimensions: 181 x 111 mm


This book is a complex little gem: light and entertaining reading with an underlying thrust that is serious and sparkling with insights. Eco promises delight and instruction and delivers both. - Wlad Godzich, University of California, Santa Cruz

Always clever and thoughtful, these musings will delight devotees and enlighten newcomers alike. - Publishers Weekly

Eco addresses interesting questions: what is the boundary between fiction and nonfiction? How do novelists put together books? Why do we care about wholly fictional characters like Anna Karenina or Emma Bovary?...As always, Eco is diverting to read. Recommended as a valuable introduction to how an important writer produces his fiction. - David Keymer, Library Journal

Refined by a lifetime of reading, studying, and creating texts across languages, genres, and centuries, the wisdom of this "young" novelist abounds. - Brendan Driscoll, Booklist

Confessions of a Young Novelist offers a brief glimpse into the mind and process of one of the most important writers of the last 30 years...Eco is a jocular and insightful writer (and speaker), and his ability to present the complex as if it were comprehensible makes Confessions of a Young Novelist a pleasant, albeit brief, read...It's rare to be invited into a great writer's intimate space, an opportunity that shouldn't be taken for granted. - Michael Patrick Brady, PopMatters

Is there anything Umberto Eco cannot do? It has been said before and certainly will be said again--Umberto Eco is a true Renaissance man...Now, with the publication of Confessions of a Young Novelist, he offers readers an effective primer on both his oeuvre and the contemporary field of semiotics...Akin to a Paris Review interview turned essay, Confessions is both polemic and intensely personal, infused with Eco's trademark fastidiousness and also bursting with bombasticity. No matter the subject, Eco appears both grandiose and also dedicated to the minutiae. For a public figure and academic, he is delightfully unguarded and frank...The fruits of Eco's semiotic detective work...are presented so clearly as to become Confessions's most fascinating revelations...He posits in his very first paragraph that he is indeed a young novelist. We know this to be untrue, Eco is currently nearing eighty. But this, his first confession, that despite all his fame and honorifics he feels like an amateur, is what imbues all the pages beyond with such vibrancy and hunger--Eco is just another reader, trying to understand. - Hillary Kelly, The Millions

Engaging, brilliant...[A] playful book. - Janet Todd, The Guardian

[Eco] offers a charming glimpse into the demiurge's private workshop. - Adam Kirsch, Barnes and Noble Review

Umberto Eco wrote his first novel, The Name of the Rose, in 1980. It was the first of only five novels, and it was a runaway bestseller. The Name of the Rose was so popular that critics accused Eco, a semiotics professor, of programming a computer with a secret formula for a successful novel. Eco was, of course, offended and fired back a series of sarcastic modest proposals that pretty much flattened his critics. There may not be a formula, or a recipe, but there are ingredients for a successful novel, and now, decades later, Eco has decided to tell us what he believes they are. - Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

For good book chat it's hard to beat Umberto Eco. The mega-selling Italian novelist, essayist, semiologist, scholar and critic has long been one of our best informed and entertaining commentators on literary matters, and in [this] new book he proves he's still near the top of his game. - Alex Good, Toronto Star

After a lapse of 30 years since his venture into fiction, [Eco] has come up with a meandering little book that offers his readers an effective primer on both his oeuvre and the contemporary field of semiotics...Laced with Eco's fastidiousness but delightfully unguarded and frank, Confessions is divided into four parts with the idea of providing a peek into the elusive process of a writer or what could be described as literary theory. - Business Standard

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