Reviews > Published on November 3rd, 2015

Bookshots: 'Numero Zero' by Umberto Eco

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Title:

Numero Zero

Who wrote it?

'Numero Zero' is, with a few exceptions, neither funny nor entertaining.

Umberto Eco, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon

Plot in a Box:

An unsuccessful middle-aged writer takes a job at a scam newspaper and learns all about how Mussolini’s double died instead of Il Duce himself.

Invent a new title for this book:

The Name of the Doze

Read this if you like:

…to be bored

Meet the book’s lead:

Colonna, a paranoid newspaper reporter whose task is to write articles nobody will ever read.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

An unknown, who would return to being an accountant after the movie bombs.

Setting: would you want to live there?

I’d always wanted to visit Milan. I’ve changed my mind.

What were your favorite sentences?

Turn the wretched book into something human that even a housewife will understand, so she has no regrets if she doesn’t read it, and anyway, who reads books that newspapers review?... generally speaking, not even the reviewer. We should be thankful if the book has been read by the author.

The Verdict: 

Umberto Eco, the improbable author of both the impenetrable A Theory of Semiotics and the great whodunit The Name of the Rose, presents in Numero Zero a deliberately empty novel about a cynical editor named Simei who hires would-be reporters – Braggadocio, Costanza, Fresia, Cambria, Colonna – to write never-to-be-published stories for a nonexistent newspaper. Note that all the characters are named after fonts. Why? Don’t ask silly questions.

The central story, spun by Braggadocio, concerns his extremely detailed theory that  Mussolini’s double was actually the one shot as the fascist dictatorship fell, and that it was this double’s corpse that was mutilated in celebration by the victorious partisans. Il Duce thus became Il Dupe. That’s my joke, not Eco’s. Numero Zero is, with a few exceptions, neither funny nor entertaining.

About the author

Ed Sikov is the author of 7 books about films and filmmakers, including On Sunset Boulevard:; The Life and Times of Billy Wilder; Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers; and Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis.

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