Book Review: “Numero Zero” by Umberto Eco

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

Eco’s latest is a blast from the past, both the setting (two decades ago in pre-Berlusconi Italy), and harking back to his earlier Foucault’s Pendulum (1988).

This story is about a small group of unsuccessful writers, pulled together into a strange unpublished newspaper, supposedly to emerge as a new daily that tells you the news of tomorrow, today. Or something. The enterprise is clearly a scam, but to what end is not clear.

Much of the dialog is satirical commentary on the low standards and sleazy approach of mass media “journalism”, at least as practiced in Italy. (Much of it is universal, I’m sure.)

But Eco is always best when he’s diving deep into historical conspiracies, tracing connections between everything. From recent headlines, we realize that such conspiracies are the normal operating mode for Italy, and seem to have been for centuries.

The particular stories are not necessarily interesting outside Italy. Heck, I don’t know who half these people are, and they aren’t really a threat to me as far as I can tell. In any case, Most of it is water under the bridge, and we’ve got new troubles these days. I mean, who cares what happened on Mussolini’s last day?

There is also some sightseeing, walking about in Eco’s Milan, and some fun with history (a run down on the numerous ‘Knights of Malta’ extant in the twentieth century, all absurdly bogus.) Classic Eco fare.

Numero Zero is a nice little story, written by a master. But for my money, Foucault’s Pendulum, is far better, and far more entertaining. The sheer scale and scope of FP is breathtaking. If you haven’t read FP, go to your library and check it out.


  1. Eco, Umberto, Numero Zero, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.


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