The Babu hearts Manguel

Been reading Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary; the man would be the King of Litblog if he ever tried.

From the introduction:

Reading is a comfortable, solitary, slow and sensuous task. Writing used to share some of these qualities. However, in recent times the profession of writing has acquired something of the ancient professions of travelling salesman and repertory actor, and writers are called upon to perform one-night stands in faraway places, extolling the virtues of their own books instead of toilet brushes or encyclopaedia sets.”

From July, on re-reading The Island of Dr Moreau:

Lecter virgo. That summer, for a few blissful days, I was like Prendick. I knew nothing of the island’s history, I dreaded the strange Dr Moreau, I wrongly suspected the beastly inhabitants of having once been normal human beings, I failed to guess what hideous experiments were going on in the House of Pain. When revelation came, halfway through the book, it proved to be much more dreadful than what I had imagined, and I read on, scared and grateful, to the apocalyptic end.
Such innocent reading, even of books I open for the first time, may no longer be possible.”

From December, when he was reading The Wind in the Willows:

I have never felt in exile, unlike so many of the writers I’ve met. I remember the Cuban group in Paris, clustered around the novelist Severo Sarduy, always conscious of not being in the place they had been compelled to leave. Sarfuy was very aware that exile had made him nostalgic for a country that no longer existed, perhaps had never existed, at least as he remembered it–a country created by layers and layers of memory, embroidered, corrected, reshaped. He believed that even the places we live in become transformed through our prejudices, whims, limited experience, through the fact that we walk one route and not another from our house to the baker’s, or that we choose one cafe, one park, one grocer from the variety of sites that make up a certain city. In this sense, every place is imaginary.”

Manguel re-read a book every month and kept a record of his moments of illumination. On some days, the pages crackle with connections, one book leading to another, Holmes sparking off a journey via Graham Greene, Kierkegaard, Goethe. On some days, Manguel allows himself just an image, a single paragraph. He never writes more than is necessary. And living in the book of that month, he lives even more sharply in the real world. Gorgeous.





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