By: Steven Spodek, Development Officer, McGill Library
Alberto Manguel, distinguished author and scholar, is spending the fall 2014 semester at the McGill Library as Scholar in Residence.
Manguel is one of the world’s great writers and readers. He is a member of PEN, a Guggenheim Fellow, and an Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Prix Médicis in essays for A History of Reading, and the McKitterick Prize for his novel News from a Foreign Country Came. Among his most recent books is The Library at Night, also published by Yale University Press. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Manguel believes in the central importance of the book in societies of the written word where, in recent times, the intellectual act has lost most of its prestige. Libraries (the reservoirs of collective memory) should be our essential symbol, not banks.
Manguel was born in Buenos Aires in 1948, and counts as a pivotal experience reading to the blind Jorge Luis Borges when Manguel was sixteen and working at the Pygmalion bookshop. His presence at McGill this year dates backto March 2013 when an admirer of Manguel and his work fully funded the symposium Meetings with Books: Raymond Klibansky, Special Collections and the Library in the 21st Century. Manguel gave the key note address at the symposium. A recording of the symposium can be found here.
The same admirer has generously funded the possibility for Manguel to spend a semester at McGill in order for both graduate and undergraduate students to have an opportunity to benefit from his vast knowledge. He is currently teaching an undergraduate course, HISP 303, on the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, beginning with Borges’ statement that “I am much prouder of the books that I’ve read than of the books I’ve written.”
During his first few weeks on campus, Manguel made a surprise appearance in the School of Information Studies graduate course GLIS 612: History of Books and Printing, taught by Geoffrey Little. Mr. Little had assigned one of Mr. Manguel’s texts as a reading for the class, and when he heard that Mr. Manguel was on campus, invited him to come and say a few words. Manguel accepted at once, and gave a lecture to a rapt audience for over an hour.
October and November also promise to be a very busy time for Manguel on campus. On Tuesday, October 14, at 6pm in the Birks Reading Room, Manguel will be giving a special public lecture titled “Sherlock Holmes in Buenos Aires: Borges & the detective story”.
In addition, Mr. Manguel will also taking part in two special sessions with graduate students from across disciplines and schools. It is only fitting that Manguel, acclaimed writer on books and reading title his first talk “Why a library?”. The talk scheduled for October 23, will be held with a small group of students from McGill’s School of Information Studies. The second seminar titled, “The Secret Sharer: Literature as Translation and Translation as Literature,” will be held on November 24 with graduate students working in the field of translation from Montreal’s four major universities. In each case the short talk will be followed by open discussion.
Hosting an international scholar like Alberto Manguel creates an enriching and rewarding learning experience for students and the community at large and we hope to continue great collaborations of this kind with the support of friends and donors.