Jonathan Kandell at The New York Times:
His Italian publisher, Bompiani, confirmed his death, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. He died at his home in Milan, according to the Italian news website Il Post. No cause was given.
As a semiotician, Mr. Eco sought to interpret cultures through their signs and symbols — words, religious icons, banners, clothing, musical scores, even cartoons — and published more than 20 nonfiction books on these subjects while teaching at the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university.
But rather than segregate his academic life from his popular fiction, Mr. Eco infused his seven novels with many of his scholarly preoccupations.
In bridging these two worlds, he was never more successful than he was with “The Name of the Rose,” his first novel, which was originally published in Europe in 1980. It sold more than 10 million copies in about 30 languages. (A 1986 Hollywood adaptation directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Sean Connery received only a lukewarm reception.)
The book is set in a 14th-century Italian monastery where monks are being murdered by their co-religionists bent on concealing a long-lost philosophical treatise by Aristotle. Despite devoting whole chapters to discussions of Christian theology and heresies, Mr. Eco managed to enthrall a mass audience with the book, a rollicking detective thriller.