I’ve admired the writing and ideas of Umberto Eco for some time, but his latest offering Numero Zero lacks focus. It sells itself as a novel about a conspiracy, but ultimately this is the most boring part of the book.
I’ll explain. Dottor Colonna is a “hack” writer – a cheap journalist and ghost writer or spaghetti westerns in 1990s Milan. He accepts a highly-paid job at Domani, a faux-newspaper set up by an Italian businessman as a way to gather information and influence the public. Colonna will not only assist the team to set up back issues of the publication – which reveal it’s insight into local issues – but also to document the whole process. All members of the team know what they are doing an what follows are fascinating discussions of what the public actually wants from the media and how the media works to position us. This is enough for a novel in itself, but sadly this is abandoned when one of the journalists begins to investigate claims that the murder of Mussolini and his mistress in Lake Como 1945 was a ruse. This whole story is revealed in lengthy exposition – and I literally fell asleep during it.
Numero Zero is a missed opportunity. There is a great novel in here that took a wrong turn.