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Alberto Manguel

  • Argentinian writer
  • Born 1948

Alberto Manguel, OC, FRSL (born 1948 in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine Canadian anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist, editor, and Director of the National Library of Argentina. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980), A History of Reading (1996), The Library at Night (2007) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008); and novels such as News From a Foreign Country Came (1991). Though almost all of Manguel's books were written in English, two of his novels (El regreso and Todos los hombres son mentirosos) were written in Spanish, and El regreso has not yet been published in English.


I had a library of maybe 1,000 books in my room in Buenos Aires. I did have the sense that everything there was organised in the right way. You'll probably think I needed serious psychiatric treatment, but there were times when I would not buy a book because I knew it wouldn't fit one of the categories into which I had divided the library.




I remember, as a child, the confusion of not knowing what this place was where I was supposed to spend the night: it's a disquieting experience for a child. And what I would do was quickly unpack my books and go back to a book I knew well and make sure the same text and the same illustrations were there.




It used to be that readers were relegated because they considered themselves far above society, and so the metaphor of the ivory tower developed. Now there's still this idea that the reader doesn't take part in the social game and in politics, the res publica, but for other reasons: he doesn't do it because he's not making any money.




The telling of stories creates the real world.




I always knew that I wanted to live with books, even as a child, because we traveled a lot. Home was the book to which I came back every evening.




A writer stops writing the moment he or she puts the last full stop to their text, and at that point the book is in limbo and doesn't come to life until the reader picks it up and the reader flips the pages.




We seem to live a culture that doesn't want blemishes. The vision of most beautiful models... airbrushed in order to be seen as perfect, infects our notion of how literature should be written.




I've never really understood attachment to a place for reasons of birth. That my mother happened to give birth to me in a certain place doesn't, to my mind, justify any thankfulness towards that place. It could have been anywhere.




In no way am I demeaning writing or any other form of art because it's popular. What I'm saying is that anything fed into the industrial machinery to comply with rules of size and length and shelf-life has a hard time surviving as art.




I can understand that there are those who can think and imagine the world without words, but I think that once you find the words that name your experience, then suddenly that experience becomes grounded, and you can use it and you can try to understand it.



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