Chronicles of a Liquid Society

The late Italian literary icon Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose) casts a wide net in his collection of essays Chronicles of a Liquid Society.

Eco, who died in 2016, was famous for both his novels and essays. Collected and translated here are columns he wrote for the Italian newspaper L'Espresso. Spanning the early aughts to the second decade of the millennium, the pieces are arranged thematically. Many focus on history and globalization and how technology is changing culture and politics. Nation-states, political parties and ideological structures have collapsed "into a sort of liquidity," Eco argues. In this new, decentralized world that lacks traditional points of reference, individual conspicuousness becomes the ultimate value.

Eco is a critical thinker, a philosopher and theorist, but he writes with refreshing clarity, sometimes sardonically but almost always to the point. These columns are pithy in the way they address complex ideas, and this itself is ironic as Eco often criticizes "disastrous journalistic simplifications" of complex truths. That Eco can be precise in his writing while respecting complexity and resisting dogmatism is a testament to his intellect. A philosopher of language, he understands the fluidity of semantics and the dangers of political fundamentalism, reminding us that between two poles "there are countless shades." Though critiquing an increasingly unpredictable society, Eco's last reflections are strangely forward-looking and sensible. Chronicles of a Liquid Society forms a map of sorts with which to navigate the modern world. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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