Correspondence

The Gay Nihilism of Umberto Eco

Letter From Italy

Simone Weil wrote, with respect to literature, that "nothing is more beautiful, wonderful, ever new, ever more surprising, more sweetly and lastingly intoxicating than the good. Nothing is more arid, sad, monotonous and cranky than the had. Such are authentic goodness and evil. The fictional good and bad are opposite. The fictional good is cranky and flat. The fictional bad is varied, interestingly attractive, profound, and full of seductions."

This statement could well be applied to the two novels of the celebrated Italian semioticist Umberto Eco. One might even add that passage of Nietzsche's which accuses Plato of "inventing good and evil . . . the most ominous of errors . . . [such that] Christianity is nothing more than platonism for the people." It is indeed nihilism that hides behind the "nominalism" in Eco's writings. In particular, The Name of the Rose (1980) paints a grandiose fresco intended to discredit the revealed truth of Christian faith.

This has long been the belief of the Italian Jesuit priest Guido Sommavilla, a literary critic and the translator into Italian of the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, the Catholic theologian. In contrast to his Jesuit confreres in the United States (who awarded Eco a degree Honoris Causa at Loyola University), Father Sommavilla warns about the "little bottle of poison" spilled over the pages of Eco's novel. Sommavilla's...

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