The list is the origin of culture. So says Italian novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco, who is curating a new exhibition at the Louvre. He tells Spiegal International that the list is part of the history of art and literature. He also talks about the place lists hold in the history of culture, the ways we try to avoid thinking about death and why Google is dangerous for young people.
What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.