Umberto Eco: The Productivity Patterns of a Polymath
Charles Chu
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It’s funny to see it mapped into a pie chart because it’s so completely the opposite of how European intellectuals think. First, the idea of a “commute” does not exist for a scholar even if travel happens that might be characterized as such. Second, I have never once heard a European (ok. I’m speaking mostly from a French perspective) count how many books they read. That whole mindset is wrong (People of Medium please please for the love of books stop making it about numbers. Books are not a to-do list). Third, you don’t turn your brain on and off as an intellectual so yes, you are always working. I know that as a semiotician Eco loved to divide things into component parts (see for example his entertaining structural analysis of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels), but I imagine that if he had applied that kind of approach to his life it would have been something akin to Borges’s “The library of Babel” — full of whimsy with tenuous boundaries between work and play. I would love to see the kind of pie chart Eco might have come up with to schematize his day.

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