ROME (AFP) - The Italian author Umberto Eco, a philosopher who wrote best-selling novels including The Name Of The Rose, has died at 84, Italian media said on Saturday, quoting his family.
Eco, who had been suffering from cancer, passed away at 9.30pm on Friday (4.30am, Saturday, Singapore time), La Repubblica said on its website.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest writers in modern Italian literature, Eco was born on Jan 5, 1932, at Alessandria in the northern region of Piedmont.
His family name was reportedly an acronym of the Latin ex caelis oblatus, "a gift from the heavens", which was given to his grandfather, a founding father, by a city official.
The young Umberto had a Roman Catholic upbringing, being educated at one of the Salesian institution's schools.
His father was very keen for him to read law, but instead he took take up mediaeval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin.
In the late 1950s, he started to develop ideas on semiotics - the study of signs, communicated either as spoken, written, scientific or artistic language.
Eco was appointed professor of semiotics at Bologna University in the 1970s and published a treatise laying out his theories.
His breakthrough, to a far wider audience, came in 1980 with the success of The Name Of The Rose.
A gothic murder mystery set in an Italian mediaeval monastery, the novel combines semiotics, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory.
It was adapted for the big screen by Jean-Jacques Annaud in 1986, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater, and has sold millions of copies.
Eco, who continued his academic work late in life, was also known for other works such as Foucault's Pendulum (1988), The Island Of The Day Before (1994), Baudolino (2000) and The Prague Cemetery (2010).