a common reader

The Library at Night, Alberto Manguel

· 1 October 2009 |  by Janantoon
· Published in: boeken verzamelen · English texts
· Tagged with:

I met Alberto Manguel in 2007 at a causerie in Brussels. After the interview I lined up to let him sign my copy of Con Borges. Because of his name — the fact that he is (or was) Argentinian — I thought he wrote in Spanish, so I had bought this book in what appeared to be a Spanish translation. A good translation, as he told me.

Recently I read Libraries by Candida Hofer. Actually it is a photobook about libraries all over the world. But I started reading the introduction and for a few moments I was under the impression that it was written by Alberto Manguel until I noticed that it was by Umberto Eco.

The Library at Night is a book for connoisseurs. Manguel skates from one old or new library or interesting bit of knowledge to another. But he always returns to his own library in a converted barn in the south of France.

I am glad to quote a few remarks that concern me too (page 254):

Visitors often ask if I’ve read all my books; my usual answer is that I’ve certainly opened every one of them. The fact is that a library, whatever its size, need not be read in its entirety to be usefull; every reader profits from a fair balance between knowledge and ignorance, recall and oblivion.
[…]
I have no feeling of guilt regarding the books I have not read and perhaps will never read; I know that my books have unlimited patience.

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