Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

20th February 2016—Two major writers passed away. Umberto Eco and Harper Lee. Eco was born in 1932 while Lee was born in 1926.
Among the books currently on my table are two by Eco: a work of fiction, Baudolino, and a sort of catalogue of painting and literary narratives called The Infinity of Lists. I am reading them both side by side: Baudolino is a quest story set in Constantinople, winding through strange corridors of romance and fantasy. The Infinity of Lists, that Simon Schama marked out as “a delight” is an extraordinary work combining visual art and literature. As you live through its baroque intellectualism, you cannot but marvel at its creator’s unique scholarship and extraordinary brilliance. Umberto Eco has always been a sort of comfort to these times when anything and everything is reduced to ordinariness and banality. His works remind us that aesthetic imagination and creativity are never dead and they never cease to capture the genuine sahrdaya’s willing heart.
As with many of my generation I had avidly consumed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird in my twenties. The book was of course a classic ever since its inception in 1950s telling the tale of a white lawyer defending a black man accused of rape. More than anything there was in the tale a profound sense of what it meant to be a human being, and many of us who have been groomed by such extraordinary classics still cling on to such values and virtues that could go to make a human being!
The passing of these two brilliant writers—their contribution is of course different in quality—means a lot to me. But little doubt that their works will remain forever. There will always be other young minds who would while searching frantically through an old old library full of dusty volumes in a dim lit room, land on The Name of the Rose or Foucault’s Pendulum or To Kill a Mocking Bird… and be amazed and live on in another land another time…