Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Umberto Eco

Italian Semiotician, Essayist, Philosopher, Literary Critic, and Novelist, President of the Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici, University of Bologna.

"In the United States, there’s a Puritan ethic and a mythology of success: He who is successful is good. In Latin countries, in Catholic countries, a successful person is a sinner. In Puritan countries, success shows God’s benevolence. In Catholic countries, your God loves you only when you’ve suffered."

"When men stop believing in God, it isn't that they then believe in nothing: they believe in everything."

"A dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams."

"A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. so the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion."

"A democratic civilization will save itself only if it makes the language of the image into a stimulus for critical reflection — not an invitation for hypnosis."

"A library's ideal function is to be a little bit like a bouquiniste's stall, a place for trouvailles."

"A secret is powerful when it is empty. People often mention the Masonic secret. What on earth is the Masonic secret? No one can tell. As long as it remains empty it can be filled up with every possible notion, and it has power."

"A monk should surely love his books with humility, wishing their good and not the glory of his own curiosity; but what the temptation of adultery is for laymen and the yearning for riches is for secular ecclesiastics, the seduction of knowledge is for monks."

"A narrator should not supply interpretations of his work; otherwise he would have not written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretations."

"A typical scientific explanation, in which the cause is mistaken for the effect, or vice versa. The question is not why the water comes out in the second place, but why it refuses to come out in the first case."

"Absence is to love as wind is to fire: it extinguishes the little flame, it fans the big."

"About the German language: They think they're deep, because their language is not clear, it lacks the clarté the French language, she never says exactly what they should be, so that no German ever knows what he wanted to say - and then he confuses this vagueness with depth. It is with Germans as with women, one arrives at them never to the bottom."

"After all, the cultivated person's first duty is to be always prepared to rewrite the encyclopaedia."

"All philosophical concept, taken in its most generic sense, explains anything."

"Aim for something that will not ever, is this the most generous acuity between desires?"

"All poets write bad poetry. Bad poets publish them, good poets burn them."

"American coffee can be a pale solution served at a temperature of 100 degrees centigrade in plastic thermos cups, usually obligatory in railroad stations for purposes of genocide, whereas coffee made with an American percolator, such as you find in private houses or in humble luncheonettes, served with eggs and bacon, is delicious, fragrant, goes down like pure spring water, and afterwards causes severe palpitations, because one cup contains more caffeine than four espressos."

"Almost intoxicated, then enjoyed his presence in the things he saw, and through them he wanted her, satisfying me delas.E in sight, however, felt a pain, because at one time suffered from an absence, even if they are happy with so many ghosts of a presence."

"All the stories I would like to write persecute me. When I am in my chamber, it seems as if they are all around me, like little devils, and while one tugs at my ear, another tweaks my nose, and each says to me, Sir, write me, I am beautiful."

"Amparo defending the faith. No matter what the empirical case, saying it's ideal for a principle that should be tested under ideal conditions, therefore, never. Yet the principle is correct."

"And we, inhabitants of the great coral of the Cosmos, believe the atom (which still we cannot see) to be full matter, whereas, it too, like everything else, is but an embroidery of voids in the Void, and we give the name of being, dense and even eternal, to that dance of inconsistencies, that infinite extension that is identified with absolute Nothingness and that spins from its own non-being the illusion of everything."

"And when someone suggests you believe in a proposition, you must first examine it to see whether it is acceptable, because our reason was created by God, and whatever pleases our reason can but please divine reason, of which, for that matter, we know only what we infer from the processes of our own reason by analogy and often by negation."

"And so I fell devoutly asleep and slept a long time, because young people seem to need sleep more than the old, who have already slept so much and are preparing to sleep for all eternity."

"Any fact becomes important when it's connected to another."

"And why does it refuse? Garamond asked eagerly."

"As the man said, for every complex problem there’s a simple solution, and it’s wrong."

"As avowed atheist who sees the devil and night bezbozhnicheski thinks so: It certainly does not exist, certainly digestion, but does not know horned and I believe in its inverted theology. What could of him assurances that exists to inspire fear? And renamed it, trusting, fading, sulfur cloud."

"Because, if it came out, it would leave a vacuum in the vessel, and nature abhors a vacuum. Nequaquam vacui was a Rosicrucian principle, which modern science has forgotten."

"Because learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do, but also of knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do."

"Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we must ask ourselves not what it says, but what it means"

"But I had also learned that freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric."

"But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth."

"Better reality than a dream: if something is real, then it's real and you're not to blame."

"But maybe that time he was not capable of any calculation, the scream that came out of his mouth was the cry of your soul, and with him and he unloaded year-long secret remorsos.Ou is, after a life of uncertainties, enthusiasms and disappointments, betrayals and vileness, set before the inevitability of his downfall, he decided to profess the faith of his youth, no more wondering if it was right or wrong, but to show himself that he was capable of any faith."

"But the purpose of a story is to teach and to please at once, and what it teaches is how to recognize the snares of the world."

"By means of the sign, man frees himself from the here and now for abstraction."

"Civilization will not come to perfection while the last stone from the last church has not fallen over the last priest, and the Earth has been released that scum."

"Concern with pleasing humans causes the loss of all spiritual growth."

"Each of us is sometimes a cretin, a fool, a moron, or a lunatic. A normal person is just a reasonable mix of these components, these four ideal types."

"Entering a novel is like going on a climb in the mountains: you have to learn the rhythm of respiration, acquire the pace; otherwise you stop right away."

"Every man is obsessed by the memories of his own youth."

"Fear prophets ... and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them."

"Daytime sleep is like the sin of the flesh; the more you have the more you want, and yet you feel unhappy, sated and unsated at the same time."

"Excuse me, Belbo said to Agliè, but your argument is simply post hoc ergo ante hoc. What follows causes what came before."

"For every complex problem there is a simple solution, and that is the wrong one."

"For the enemy to be recognized and feared, he has to be in your home or on your doorstep."

"For such is the fate of parody: it must never fear exaggerating. If it strikes home, it will only prefigure something that others will then do without a smile--and without a blush--in steadfast virile seriousness."

"For the people who visit a first time, discover an impressive library and say nothing better than to know: Did you read it all, I know several answers One of my friends says,. More, sir, more? For my part I have two answers. The first is: No. These are the only books I have read, the next week, which I've read are in the university. The second answer is: I do not have one of these books read Why would I keep it here otherwise."

"For what I saw at the abbey then (and will now recount) caused me to think that often inquisitors create heretics. And not only in the sense that they imagine heretics where these do not exist, but also that inquisitors repress the heretical putrefaction so vehemently that many are driven to share in it, in their hatred for the judges. Truly, a circle conceived by the Devil. God preserve us."

"God is dead, art ceased to exist, the story has come to an end, and I do not feel quite right."