Magazine article World Literature Today

Chronicles of a Liquid Society

Magazine article World Literature Today

Chronicles of a Liquid Society

Article excerpt

Umberto Eco Chronicles of a Liquid Society Trans. Richard Dixon. New York. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2017. 304 pages.

When Umberto Eco died in early 2016, he had just finished putting together a collection of essays entitled Pape Satán Aleppe: Cronache di una societa liquida. The English translator, Richard Dixon, dropped Dante's phrase from the title, perhaps for fear that American readers would fail to make the connection, and kept the subtitle. Yet "Pape Satán Aleppe" is infamous for its elusive meaning, which ties in wonderfully with Eco's theme in the book-one of exploring, at least in part, just how difficult it is to discover any meaning, let alone an absolute meaning, in contemporary society.

Chronicles of a Liquid Society is Eco's final gift to his readers. Made up of previously published essays from his longstanding column in LEspresso, titled "La bustina di Minerva," this collection takes as its point of departure Zygmunt Bauman's conceptualization of a liquid society, specifically as outlined in his book Liquid Modernity, published in 2000, followed by several more books on the subject. In his opening essay, "The Liquid Society," Eco claims that the "crisis of grand narratives," perhaps first heralded by Jean-François Lyotard in his work The Postmodern Condition, led to the ripple effect, or aftershocks, that we are now experiencing in society. Each age experiences a certain degree of uncertainty, but contemporary society, with its collapse of ideologies, signals an age where uncertainty may be the latest manifestation of a grand narrative to emerge in the twenty-first century. …

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