In memory of Umberto Eco and other great minds

When Umberto Eco departed in 2016, he joined the league of my most beloved great minds who now dwell on the other side of the world. That left me alone and deserted.

I envy J. K. Rowling’s fans. They always have something to hope for. They used to camp and queue for the latest Harry Potter, now they could do the same for the next Fantastic Beasts. The story never ends. I also envy Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe’s fans. Though they passed away decades ago, the tabloids have never failed to uncover unseen photos and untold stories.

I am in a direr situation – manifesting my love for my beloved writers is not easy. I console myself if I could get a copy of those out-of-print books from our university library. I congratulate myself if I could obtain a first print or special edition from the flea markets. When I miss them, I re-read the passages I love, I copy them to my notebooks with pen, I read them aloud to myself. I make an idiot of myself when I shower, ruminating over the witty and touching pieces, now laughing now sobbing.

Worse, I couldn’t even find a friend to share my frustrated love. Most authors I love are unheard of in my immediate circle. Some are indeed well-known, e.g. Thomas Aquinas, but nobody bothers to read him, not even the table of content. Do like-minded people really flock together? I must have violated the boundary conditions somehow.

But at least I could imagine what such friendship looks like. In his tribute to Charles Williams, C.S.Lewis recalls how their friendship springs up:

I first heard of Charles Williams a great many years ago when a man who was sitting next to me at dinner asked me if I had read any of his novels. He described them as “spiritual shockers”. I was interested and made a mental note that this was an author to be looked into, but did nothing about it. A few years later I spent an evening at Exeter College in the rooms of Mr N.K.Goghill… and I went home with Charles Williams’ The Place of the Lion. Twenty-four hours later I found myself, for the first time in my life, writing to an author I had never met to congratulate him on his book. By return of post I had an answer from Williams, who had received my letter when he was on the point of writing a similar letter to me about my Allegory of Love. After this, as may be supposed, we soon met and our friendship rapidly grew inward to the bone.

Till now I have assumed the odds to be too low to have such an encounter, that’s why I kept everything to myself for a long time. But a recent episode has convinced me that the rare event does happen, and perhaps I could find such a friend one day. So I decided to commemorate my favourite authors, in reverse chronological order, starting from Umberto Eco.

If you know nothing about him yet, I have one warning:

Do not read his books in any public venues. You’ll either embarrass yourself being seized by helpless laughters, or suffocate yourself trying to suppress them.

It’s not a joke, I learnt the hard lesson myself in a bus and a library. If you wanna see for yourself, just sample a piece, a 3-minute-read => How to Travel with a Salmon.

P.S. Hmm… this post is quite long now, perhaps I’ll talk more about him later (hopefully not never).

Written on November 24, 2018