Book Review: Inventing the Enemy


‘Inventing the Enemy’ by Umberto Eco is an eclectic collection of fourteen essays with an Introduction by this master writer and thinker. Source material comes from lectures and articles written over a ten year period covering topics as diverse as ancient astronomy, medical ethics and Wikileaks; with explorations of responses to literature, narrative devices, conflict and global exploration in between.

As is typical of the author’s work these essays cannot be rushed; they demand and deserve proper consideration. Most are easily readable but intense, written to provoke thought as much as to entertain.

I found two of the essays bizarre to read (‘Living by Proverbs’ and ‘Ulysses: That’s All We Needed…’) although that is, of course, the point of them. Much more satisfying were ‘The Poetics of Excess’ and ‘Imaginary Astronomies’ which had me so fired up that I was obliged to discuss them at length with those members of my family who understand my passion for understanding the way people think and react to consensus views of literature and science.

For those who are concerned or have an interest in the modern phenomena of increasing state surveillance I would recommend ‘Thoughts on Wikileaks’. This short article veers into the realms of the absurd at times but, in so doing, raises points that are worthy of further consideration. Will an inability to fully contain and control digital data force states to retain or pass on their secrets via another medium?

The book provides gentle exercise for the brain that will leave the reader feeling sated by his exertions. Read and pass on to a like minded friend that you may enjoy together some lively discussions on topics you may not yet realise are of mutual, if passing, interest.



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