Numero zero

  I can never start anything on my own, but if someone passes me the ball, I sometimes manage to score a goal. The fact is that Maia is still quite ingenuous, whereas age has made me wise. And if you know you’re a loser, the only consolation is to think that everyone around you, even the winners, are losing out.

  That’s how I answered Maia.

  “You’re forgetting, my love, that Italy is slowly turning into one of those havens you want to banish yourself to. If we’ve managed to both accept and forget all those things the BBC has recounted, it means we are getting used to the idea of losing the sense of shame. Didn’t you see that all those interviewed were happily telling us what they’d done and were almost expecting a medal for it? No more Baroque chiaroscuro, everything in broad daylight, as though painted by the impressionists: corruption rife, Mafiosi officially in parliament, tax dodgers in government, and the only ones to end up in prison are Albanian chicken thieves. Decent people will carry on voting for the hoodlums because they won’t believe the BBC, or they don’t watch such programs because they’re glued to trash, perhaps Vimercate’s home shopping channels will end up on early evening television, and if someone important is murdered, he gets a state funeral. Let’s escape: I’ll go back to translating, you go back to your magazines for ladies’ hairdressing salons and dentists’ waiting rooms. Meanwhile a good film in the evening, weekends here at Orta—and to hell with everyone else. All we have to do is wait: once this country of ours has finally joined the Third World, the living will be easy, as if it were all Copacabana, the hottest spot south of Havana.”

  Maia has restored my peace of mind, my self-confidence, or at least my calm distrust of the world around me. Life is bearable, you just have to make the most of it. Tomorrow (as Scarlett O’Hara said, another quote, I know, but I’ve stopped talking myself and have let others take over), tomorrow is another day.

  The island of San Giulio will shine again in the sunlight.

  Visit to find more books by Umberto Eco.

  About the Author

  UMBERTO ECO is the author of numerous essay collections and five novels, including Foucault’s Pendulum and The Prague Cemetery. He received Italy’s highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government, and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Milan.



  Umberto Eco, Numero zero

  (Series: # )




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