22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Alberto Manguel

Portrait Alberto Manguel
© Hartwig Klappert

Alberto Manguel was born in 1948 in Buenos Aires to an Argentinian diplomat and spent his early years in Israel. He spoke English growing up before learning Spanish. He learned to read when he was four and, due to illness, spent most of his childhood alone with books. He worked in a bookshop during his time in school, and when he was 16 he worked for the poet Jorge Luis Borges, who was going blind, as a reader, which he wrote about in his essay »With Borges« (2004). Manguel studied Comparative Literature and worked as an editor at a publishing house as well as writing reviews, stage plays and film scripts and translating literature, including the works of Marguerite Yourcenar, into English.

His first novel, »News from a Foreign Country Came«, set in Canada and Algeria, was published in 1991. The reconstruction of an assassination attempt on the life of a former policeman is integrated in a critical portrait of society. His essay »A History of Reading« (1996), a biography of the author as a reader, brought Manguel worldwide recognition and won, among others, the Prix Médicis. Beginning with what he read as a child, the book is a gripping cultural history of reading from antiquity up to now. He doesn’t approach the subject chronologically, but intuitively, as reading is for him always closely connected with coincidence. His essay collection »Into the Looking Glass Wood« (1998) also deals with reading, because »what remains unchanged is my desire to read, to hold the book in my hand and suddenly have this strange feeling of amazement, to feel the recognition or the chill or the spreading warmth which a particular sequence of words can arouse in us for no apparent reason«. In 2005 Manguel published the Spanish language short story collection »El regreso« (2005, tr: The Return) about a militant politician who returns to his home after thirty years in exile. His library, comprising over 30,000 books, was the inspiration for »The Library at Night» (2007), a tour through real and fictitious libraries from all over the world. His most recent novel, »Todos los hombres son mentirosos« (Engl: »All Men are Liars«, 2010) is a melancholy comedy about the ambivalence of lies and truth against a background of experience with dictatorships.

Alberto Manguel lives in Toronto, Paris and in a small village in the West of France.