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Introducing Umberto Eco’s new novel “The Book of Legendary Lands”

It is a fascinating book re-enacting the history of the most famous mythic places with the aim of discovering the real imprint they have left on history

Introducing Umberto Eco’s new novel “The Book of Legendary Lands”

Claudia Astarita

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The New York Times recently published a very interesting interview with Italian writer Umberto Eco.

After introducing him as a Master of Fiction and reminding readers that in his home in Milan the author has collected more than 50,000 books, the American newspaper stressed that the 81 years old globally successful novelist has "a particular passion for volumes on imaginary, occult or even bogus subjects".

This passion is behind his new masterpiece, "The Book of Legendary Lands" a fascinating novel re-enacting the history of the most famous mythic places, such as Atlantis, El Dorado, and Camelot, with the aim of discovering the real imprint they have left on history. Beyond that, Umberto Eco's new book has been able to bring  together disparate elements such as Homer's poems and other ancient and medieval texts, Gulliver's Travels and Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien and Marco Polo's stories.

While taking his readers into an Amazing illustrated tour of the fabled places in literature and folklore that have awed, troubled, and eluded us through the ages, Umberto Eco successfully pushes them to explore the "human urge to create such places, the utopias and dystopias where our imagination can confront things that are too incredible or challenging for our limited real world."

When reached by telephone by The New York Times reporter and asked about his opinion on the assumed "decline of Italian culture", Mr. Eco stressed that "nobody is able to evaluate the period in which he or she lives. I think when Joyce was publishing his first book there were a lot of people in Ireland saying Irish culture is in complete decline. The one who will be considered the greatest writer of the 21st century is in this moment alive but we don't recognize him".

In conclusion, the author also admitted that like any other writer, artist, musician, and scientist, he is profoundly interested in the survival of his work after death. "Otherwise they would be idiots. [...] It is essential if you work on something creative to have this hope. Otherwise you are only a person doing something to make money, to have women and Champagne. You don't love your work if you don't hope so."

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