Umberto Eco, Italian Novelist Who Explored 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' Dies at 84

Though best known as a novelist, Eco's work in other areas included philosophy and linguistics; his 2010 novel 'The Prague Cemetery' depicted a forger behind the anti-Semitic text.

Italian writer Umberto Eco poses during the presentation of his novel 'The Cemetery of Prague' in Madrid, in this December 13, 2010 file photo.
Reuters

Italian writer Umberto Eco died late Friday at the age of 84, Italian media reported Saturday, citing his family.

Best known as a novelist, his work in other areas included philosophy and linguistics.

Eco was born January 5, 1932, as the son of a bookkeeper in Alessandria in northern Italy.

The 1980 historical mystery, "The Name of the Rose" ("Il nome della rosa"), made Eco's name around the world. The story became a 1986 film starring Sean Connery as a 14th Franciscan monk who battles superstition to solve a murder in a monastery.

Eco's later works included "Foucault's Pendulum" ("Il pendolo di Foucault") in 1988 and 1994's "The Island of the Day Before" ("L'isola del giorno prima"). 

His 2010 book "The Prague Cemetery" depicted a 19th-century forger who is behind the notorious text that became the foundation for anti-Semitism across Europe: "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

While in Israel for the Jerusalem International Book Fair in 2011, Eco expressed opposition to cultural boycotts and said that censuring artists because of actions committed by their governments was akin to racism.

During the same press conference, Eco said he had a very Talmudic mind and once even suspected he was of Jewish heritage, since his grandfather was adopted. He said his fascination with Jewish culture is evident in his books, and when asked to name his favorite Israeli authors, he said he particularly enjoys reading A.B. Yehoshua.

His final novel was last year's "Numero Zero."