Umberto Eco.jpg
Photograph: umbertoeco.com

The renowned Italian writer and public intellectual Umberto Eco, who gained literary fame for the historical mystery novel The Name of the Rose, had died at the age of 84.

Eco died late Friday at his home in central Milan, Italian media reported Saturday, citing his family.

A non-religious funeral service was scheduled for Tuesday at 3 pm (1400 GMT) in Milan's landmark Sforza Castle.

Gianni Coscia, a jazz accordionist who was a life-long friend, told the La Stampa newspaper that Eco had been suffering from cancer for two years.

"Nobody thought that his end would have come so soon," Coscia said, adding he last saw his friend in mid-January, when Eco attended his wife's 80th birthday party.

Eco's condition deteriorated this week, and after refusing hospitalization, he met "a quick but not unexpected end, surrounded by his wife and two children," his editor Mario Andreose told the ANSA news agency.

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

Often listed as a possible contender for a Nobel Literature Prize, he was one of Europe's leading intellectual figures.

The 1980 novel The Name of the Rose (Il nome della rosa), made him world famous. The story of a 14th Franciscan monk who battles superstition to solve a murder in a monastery became a film starring Sean Connery six years later.

Eco's work in other areas included philosophy, linguistics and semiotics - the study of signs and symbols - as well as piercing commentary on pop culture and politics, through regular columns on the left-wing Italian weekly l'Espresso.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella honoured him as a "protagonist of Italian and international intellectual debates."

"His essays and novels brought great prestige to Italy and enriched culture everywhere," Mattarella said in a statement.

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 final novel was last year's Numero Zero, but a posthumous collection of his l'Espresso articles is due out in May.

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