Friday, February 09, 2007

Interview with Alberto Manguel

Alberto Manguel was born in Buenos Aires, spent part of his childhood in Israel, wandered Europe in his youth and now resides in France. Yet he is, by his own assertion, a Canadian writer. It was after moving here in 1982 that Manguel first felt he lived “in a place where I could participate actively as a writer in the running of the state.”

Manguel’s significance, however, is hardly limited to his reflections on Canada. His essays, fiction and anthologies represent the worldliest of intellectual itineraries. The volumes on reading for which he’s famous—A History of Reading, Reading Pictures and, most recently, The Library at Night—are mosaics rich with anecdote, research, insight and an eloquently articulated passion for the fathomless role of books in our lives.

VUE WEEKLY: In The Library at Night you confess that as a youth you dreamed of being a librarian, but found this goal sabotaged by “sloth and an ill-restrained fondness for travel.” Had a writing career not yet occurred to you?

ALBERTO MANGUEL: No. I think it’s a reaction many readers have. You read great books, finding them such well-crafted, magical objects, worlds into which you enter, that the idea of creating something similar seems impossible. I didn’t know that every writer thinks this way. Writing eventually came to me by chance, from ideas sparked by reading. Even in my fiction, the starting point has something to do with reading.
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