A Tragic Day for Literature: Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

Yesterday was a truly tragic day for literature. We lost two of our most treasured writers. Ms. Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89, and the great Umberto Eco died at the age of 84. I find it difficult to express how deeply I am saddened.

Umberto Eco was my favorite writer. I think why I felt such a connection to him is because he did it all. He wrote amazing literary analysis that is insightful and thought-provoking. He tackled complex social issues in essays that were both witty and complex. Finally, he wrote such rich novels that were mysterious, philosophical, and engaging. I cannot sing this man’s praises enough. His genius is reflected in everything that he wrote, and there is much out there to read.

In contrast to the prolific Eco, Harper Lee essentially wrote one book that changed the world. If anyone ever suggests that writing is a frivolous pursuit, you need only mention To Kill a Mockingbird and how that one book impacted society. And yes, Ms. Lee also recently published Go Set a Watchman, but it can be argued that this was the draft of what would be her masterpiece. Harper Lee was the literary equivalent to a one-hit-wonder in music, but that one hit delivered one of the most powerful blows in literature.

Although they are gone, their works will live on to inspire. The world suffers the loss of these two literary geniuses. I guess I can only feel grateful that I lived at the same time as these two brilliant writers.

Here are links to some of my past posts discussing Eco’s and Lee’s works. May they both rest in peace.


Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco


Harper Lee

Harper Lee



Filed under Literature

9 responses to “A Tragic Day for Literature: Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

  1. Alex Hurst

    I hadn’t heard that Eco had died, too. 😦 A very tragic day for literature, indeed. I’m sorry for the feelings you must be feeling so acutely, especially since he was your favorite author.

    • Thanks Alex. Yeah, it is sad, but I’m grateful he left us with such a wealth of wisdom. And US news sources basically ignored Eco’s passing. It was covered on BBC, though.

  2. I have not read anything by Umberto Eco – what would you recommend as a first? Of course, I have read To Kill a Mockingbird several times and agree with everything you said. I am certain Go Set a Watchman was a draft for Mockingbird. Readers have been outraged over Atticus Finch’s character in that book, but to me, she was only beginning to develop who he was. It wasn’t meant to be a sequel to Mockingbird, but that’s how people have reacted.

    • Hi Barb. Thanks for your comment. As far as Eco goes, I would say the book to read first is “Name of the Rose.” I’m considering re-reading it. It’s been a while. I also really liked “Baudalino” a lot, but then again I am fascinated by medieval relics, which figure prominently in the book. Those are both novels. If you are interested in non-fiction, I really liked “On Ugliness” which analyzes how the interpretation of what is ugly and grotesque has changed throughout the years, particularly in art.

  3. I did not know about Eco. One of his quotes has always been a light in the darkness for me when I was experiencing doubt or had heard cruel things said about some of the things I do.

    “Thus I rediscovered what writers have always known (and have told us again and again): books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told.”

    I’m putting The Name of the Rose on my Goodreads list. I’m sorry I didn’t do this before.

  4. “The Name of the Rose” was required reading for a graduate course in sociology up here. I switched my program to religious studies and never finished it. But i hope one day i will. I remeber his account of the monasteries, the scriptorial rooms, etc., being extremely concincing. It went beyond mere research. He had a real feel for it.

  5. Pingback: “Numero Zero” by Umberto Eco | Stuff Jeff Reads