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Inventing the Enemy: Essays Hardcover – September 4, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This selection underscores the writer’s profound erudition, lively wit, and passion for ideas of all shapes and sizes...these occasional writings touch upon potentially provocative topics of contemporary interest...Eco’s pleasure in such explorations is obvious and contagious."
--Booklist

"Thought provoking...nuanced...the collection amply shows off Eco's sophisticated, agile mind."
--Publishers Weekly

"Inventing the Enemy is definitely sublime"--San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

About the Author

UMBERTO ECO is the author of five novels and numerous essay collections, including The Name of the Rose, The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy's highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547640978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547640976
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #761,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Umberto Eco (born 5 January 1932) is an Italian novelist, medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, and literary critic.

He is the author of several bestselling novels, The Name of The Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of The Day Before, and Baudolino. His collections of essays include Five Moral Pieces, Kant and the Platypus, Serendipities, Travels In Hyperreality, and How To Travel With a Salmon and Other Essays.

He has also written academic texts and children's books.


Photography (c) Università Reggio Calabria

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Williamson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First introduced to Umberto Eco after seeing the 1986 film "The Name of the Rose" shortly after it was released, I was enthusiastically describing the performances by Sean Connery and F. Murray Abraham to a friend. She asked if I had read the book, which I had not, and she offered to loan me her copy. I read it and had to get my own, and The Name of the Rose became a personal favorite, closely followed by Foucault's Pendulum (1988), my favored conspiracy theory novel.

But the author is also an excellent essayist, and his new title Inventing the Enemy: Essays does not disappoint. Always informative, often thought provoking, and frequently entertaining, this one will appeal to fans of this Italian novelist, philosopher, semiotician and literary critic. For those who are new to Umberto Eco and want a sampler, it's an excellent place to start.

The title essay here, "Inventing the Enemy" is the first, and ties in to a topic of his earlier novel, The Prague Cemetery, by illustrating how the presence of an enemy is essential to a nation's success. The first pages set the theme, as one finds early into this essay:

"Having an enemy is important to not only define our identity but also to provide us with an obstacle against which to measure our system of values and, in seeking to overcome it, to demonstrate our own worth.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've always found Umberto Eco's novels rather frustrating, since I end up spending most of my energy in trying (usually unsuccessfully) to solve the puzzles rather than in enjoying the story. This book is unencumbered with narrative and gives us Eco's insights into a wide variety of subjects. He's a fox rather than a hedgehog, and I've rarely seen a collection of essays that ranged over a wider area! We hear his thoughts on relics, both sacred (Christ's foreskin) and secular (Elvis's Cadillac), an astonishing collection of quotes from irate Italian fascisti on James Joyce, and a remarkable appreciation of Victor Hugo, to name only a few. The title essay, on the need to invent enemies from within when lacking ones from without, is probably the highlight, but all of them are worth reading. And the variety is such that if you don't like what you're reading, just hang on for a few pages.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martina A. Nicolls on December 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Inventing the Enemy and Other Occasional Writings is an exceptionally eclectic collection of previously published or presented essays written in a variety of styles, from scholastic to wistful, and dense to delightful.

Just as I was in a café reading the first essay, "Inventing the Enemy" a young man with Planet Enemy walked by. In Eco's piece, from a lecture at Bologna University on May 15, 2008, he explores the notion of the enemy - who we, collectively and individually, regard as our historical enemies, but also our cultural enemies, whether real or perceived or invented. For example, he cites ancient to contemporary texts to illustrate his point, from Marcus Cicero's 63BC Orations against Catiline to Jean-Paul Satre's No Exit (1944) to George Orwell's Nineteen Eight-Four (1949), as well as historical events (global conflicts). He writes of people's intolerance of other races, lower classes, and of people who are different from "us." "The enemy is ugly," he states, and adds, "The need (for an enemy) is second nature even to a mild man of peace. In his case the image of the enemy is simply shifted from a human object to a natural or social force that in some way threatens us and has to be defeated, whether it be capitalistic exploitation, environmental pollution, or third-world hunger."

Basing our lives on "this Other" and finding "this Other intolerable because to some degree he is not us" we "create our own hell," Eco writes. The enemy springs from our own fears, insecurities, intolerances, and even virtuous causes. So when we see Planet Enemy on a T-shirt we remember our own fictional heroes and villains, but we may also reflect on good versus evil, and them against us.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, Baudolino, The mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Prague Cemetery) is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist. This collection offers fourteen `occasional pieces', or writing created for specific events and in essence are thought provoking and sometimes intimidating essays. Though always maintaining the dignity and stance of a humanities academic, Eco appears to play joyfully through topics, such as the human need for enemies; the beauty, importance, and history of fire; whether the fallout from WikiLeaks will require espionage technology to regress to "a lonely street corner, at midnight." Most of these dazzling little words adhere to conventional essay formats, two humorous collage-style works (one on the danger of proverbs, another composed of Fascist critiques of Ulysses) provide the kind of spice for which the dour Eco is known. Avoiding exaggeration, Eco's thoughts are nuanced, reserved, and refreshingly reader friendly. Some of the essays do become thick with content and may in those cases put off the light reader. He often jumps into a topic in medias res (not providing too significant background information for his subject at hand), often dipping into other languages without bothering to translate his quotes. Some readers will find the writing and the subjects a bit too obtuse, but for those who love the melodic manner in which he writes so seductively well, then this collection will well satisfy. and seems reluctant to clue in readers to helpful background information, as hinted at by many a snippet quotation in another language included without translation or elaboration.Read more ›
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