Abstract: The continuity between the theoretical and the narrative works of Umberto Eco has been frequently pointed out. Eco himself often dwelled on it, famously claiming that “what cannot be explained must be narrated upon”. Such continuity manifests itself also in the opposite direction, for Eco’s essays prominently feature a dimension of ‘conceptual story-telling’. Yet, when asked to explain the origin of the communicative power of narration, Eco constantly belittled the importance of individual genius and emphasized, on the contrary, the role of the artist as mediator between the encyclopedia shared by a community of interpreters and the artist’s audience: creativity does not consist in pure invention but stems from a skillful combinatorial operation. Some critics, as a consequence, have labeled Umberto Eco’s fiction has ‘cerebral’ and ‘cold’. To the attentive reader, though, Eco’s theoretical stance is instrumental not only to downplay the romantic idea of individual creativity, but also to underline that language and culture are the only filters through which human beings can make sense of the irrationality of life and nature.