Umberto Eco (əmbĕr´tō ĕcō), 1932–, Italian novelist, essayist, and scholar. His first novel, the best-selling Il nome della rosa (1980; tr. The Name of the Rose, 1983), is a medieval mystery. A pastiche of detective fiction, medieval philosophy, and moral reflection, it encapsulates his semiotic theory, which describes how signs are produced and interpreted in the world. The novel presents clues for the reader to decode, but as the reader grapples with the novel's deeper meanings, the mystery becomes secondary. Eco's other novels include Il pendolo di Foucault (1988; tr. Foucault's Pendulum, 1989), L'isola del giorno prima (1994; tr. The Island of the Day Before, 1995), Baudolino (2000; tr. 2002), and Il cimitero di Praga (2010; tr. The Prague Cemetery, 2011). Among his important theoretical books are Trattato di semiotica generale (1975; tr. A Theory of Semiotics, 1976), The Role of the Reader (selected essays, tr. 1979), and I limiti dell'interpretazione (1990; tr. The Limits of Interpretation, 1990).
See studies by T. Coletti (1988) and M. T. Inge, ed. (1988).