Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Discovering Alberto Manguel

While my "have read" list grows, so also does my "to read" list. The best books inspire you to read other books, so the latter list grows exponentially. I like to read reviews by others who also read a lot. I thought Tyler Cowen probably topped the list of readers and world-traveling connoisseurs of the finer things in life, but then I read a book review in The Economist on Alberto Manguel. I had never heard of Manguel but feel like I have a new hero:

"A literary omnivore, he owns 30,000 books (a Wikipedia citation of a speech claims nearly 40,000) and boasts an output of writing to match. For 35 years Mr Manguel has published on average a book a year...An Argentine diplomat’s son, he knows many languages, and he lived in many places before settling in France. Few cultures or historical periods are closed to him. He hops knowledgeably and divertingly from topic to topic...His questions instead prompt suggestive insights on the relevant theme from the great books of the world: Homer, Plato, the Sanskrit Vedas, the Hebrew Talmud, the Christian Gospels, the Persian and Arabic classics. Mr Manguel offers also his own thoughts."

This compilation of essays entitled A Reader on Reading looks like a good place to start gleaning his insights:

"The thirty-nine essays in this volume explore the crafts of reading and writing, the identity granted to us by literature, the far-reaching shadow of Jorge Luis Borges, to whom Manguel read as a young man, and the links between politics and books and between books and our bodies. The powers of censorship and intellectual curiosity, the art of translation, and those “numinous memory palaces we call libraries” also figure in this remarkable collection."

His obsession with Dante seems a bit odd, however.


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