#1 Italian bestseller
“Witty and wry . . . It’s hard not to be charmed.” — New York Times Book Review
“One of the most influential thinkers of our time.” — Los Angeles Times
1945, Lake Como. Mussolini and his mistress are captured and shot by local partisans. The precise circumstances of Il Duce’s death remain controversial.
1992, Milan. Colonna, a depressed hack writer, is offered a fee he can’t resist to ghostwrite a book. His subject: a fledgling newspaper, which happens to be financed by a powerful media magnate. As Colonna gets to know the team, he learns of the editor’s paranoid theory that Mussolini’s corpse was a body double and part of a wider Fascist plot. It’s the scoop the newspaper desperately needs. The evidence? He’s working on it.
It’s all there: media hoaxes, Mafiosi, the CIA, the Pentagon, blackmail, love, gossip, and murder. A clash of forces that have shaped Italy since World War II — from Mussolini to Berlusconi. “Farcical, serious, satiric, and tragic” (Le Point, France), Numero Zero is the work of a master storyteller.
UMBERTO ECO (1932–2016) was the author of numerous essay collections and seven novels, including The Name of the Rose,The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy’s highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government, and was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
At the heart of Eco's short, satiric novel beats a rant against contemporary journalism and the suspicion-rich, fact-poor culture it nurtures. In 1992, Colonna a 50ish university dropout who ekes out a living as a hack journalist/manuscript reviewer/proofreader/fact-checker is hired by Milan editor Simei to help produce sample issues of a proposed (mock) newspaper underwritten by an ambitious hotel and nursing home magnate for his private use. Colonna's new job includes ghostwriting Simei's book about the newspaper experiment, for his own purposes. At editorial meetings, the newspaper's six reporters are taught such journalistic techniques as dumbing down, grouping stories to suggest worrisome themes, responding to complaints by casting aspersions on the complainer, quoting sources real and imaginary, and slanting news while maintaining an objective posture. As the newspaper takes shape, Colonna becomes romantically involved with Maia, the horoscope writer, and befriends Bragadaccio. Formerly a magazine freelancer for What They Don't Tell Us, Bragadaccio is obsessed with the idea that Mussolini is alive, well, and living in Argentina, with the coverup connecting the CIA, a right-wing/Catholic conspiracy, and sundry government scandals. For Eco (The Prague Cemetery), 20th-century history is a mud river beneath Italian society, creating sinkholes for truth and principle. Historical fiction still inspires his best writing, but while romance and humor have never been his forte, they are both credible here. Unfortunately, the promise of a psychological/political thriller remains unfulfilled. As fact and fiction merge into mystery, Eco offers fewer clues than in his masterwork, The Name of the Rose, but no William of Baskerville to solve the puzzle.