Virtual Memories Show 273:
Alberto Manguel

“I don’t know how people survive in the world without reading.”

Author, editor, translator, and (most crucially) reader Alberto Manguel joins the show to talk about his new book, Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (Yale University Press). We discuss the lifelong act of building a library and how he deals with having no access to it, now that he’s had to pack up ~35,000 books (but he also tells us about the 3 books he took with him on his travels). We get into his new gig as director of Argentina’s National Library, our schism on whether to cull one’s book collection, his experience in his teens reading to a blind Borges, the book-fetish, our mutual preference for The Iliad over The Odyssey, the embarrassment of receiving an award that was previously given to Borges and Beckett, why translating a book takes more effort than writing one, how he deals with Argentina’s dirty war and the phenomenon of awful people liking great books, the book he still hopes to write, why Canada is home for this world traveler, and the problem with the problem with canons. BONUS: Our listeners weigh in on the books they’d bring with them for a 2-week hospital stay! Give it a listen! And go buy Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions!

“If you can reduce a piece of literature to a slogan, then it’s proof that it’s not a great piece of literature.”

“Literature can be defined as Before and After Borges, or rather ‘Before and After Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote‘.”

“Culling books would be equivalent to euthanasia.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Alberto Manguel is a writer, translator, editor, and critic, but would rather define himself as a reader and a lover of books. Born in Buenos Aires, he has since resided in Israel, Argentina, Europe, the South Pacific, and Canada. He is now the director of the National Library of Argentina. His most recent book is Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions. Here’s a list of his 100 favorite books (PDF).

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Manguel’s apartment on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Manguel by me. It’s on my instagram.

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