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Alberto Manguel

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An eclectic history of human curiosity, a great feast of ideas, and a memoir of a reading life from an internationally celebrated reader and thinker

Curiosity has been seen through the ages as the impulse that drives our knowledge forward and the temptation that leads us toward dangerous and forbidden waters. The question “Why?” has appeared under a multiplicity of guises and in vastly different contexts throughout the chapters of human history. Why does evil exist? What is beauty? How does language inform us? What defines our identity? What is our responsibility to the world? In Alberto Manguel’s most personal book to date, the author tracks his own life of curiosity through the reading that has mapped his way.

Manguel chooses as his guides a selection of writers who sparked his imagination. He dedicates each chapter to a single thinker, scientist, artist, or other figure who demonstrated in a fresh way how to ask “Why?” Leading us through a full gallery of inquisitives, among them Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, Lewis Carroll, Rachel Carson, Socrates, and, most importantly, Dante, Manguel affirms how deeply connected our curiosity is to the readings that most astonish us, and how essential to the soaring of our own imaginations.

Alberto Manguel is a Canadian writer, translator, editor, and critic. Born in Buenos Aires, he has since resided in Israel, Argentina, Europe, the South Pacific, and Canada. He now lives in New York.

“Reading Mr. Manguel is like taking a city walk or an unhurried meal with an erudite, cosmopolitan friend. . . . Few cultures or historical periods are closed to him. He hops knowledgeably and divertingly from topic to topic. Yet he never strays far from his true interest, reading itself.”—The Economist

"Manguel vaults over the traditional fences of genre, literary history, and discipline with breathtaking virtuosity. He is the Montaigne de nos jours and, as regards this latest effort, if they put another rover on Mars they should call it 'Manguel.'"—John Sutherland, University College London

"For Alberto Manguel reading is a pilgrimage, a secular-sacred encounter with mystery, and a way of reinvigorating the dead. Dante and Montaigne and Pinocchio's Collodi are his guides and his intimates in this passionate quest for knowledge, but it is the state of inquiry itself and even doubt that define for him the pleasures of curiosity. With his loving, keenly felt, highly enjoyable delving into writers and their writings, Manguel argues for literature’s revelatory illusions, its epiphanies and its testimony."—Marina Warner, author of Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights

"Alberto Manguel is a wanderer among books, immensely curious in such an intriguing way that he lets his readers easily discover the fruits of his curiosity."—Roberto Calasso

"This is a dynamic, lively book that leads the reader to appreciate the pleasures and the power of curiosity. In writing its remarkable history Alberto Manguel sees it both as a primary passion and as a force behind all intellectual experiences.  In a sort of encyclopedic narrative Manguel journeys over the most distant places—from Dante’s Florence to Rome, Jerusalem, Athens, and Latin America, etc.—and he invites us to a grand tour of wonders and surprises."—Giuseppe Mazzotta, Yale University

"Manguel travels through books in the same way he travels through various countries. He meets new friends and asks questions of them about himself, and about life. In a style which is all his own, he delights us with the unlimited bounds of human curiosity."—Lina Bolzoni, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa

“An erudite analysis and exploration of curiosity through the author's own works and those of countless others. . . . Among the fictional or mythical characters that readers meet on this journey through the history of mankind are Eve, Pandora, Ulysses, and Ebenezer Scrooge, as well as a host of real scholars, religious figures, authors, poets, artists, philosophers and even economists. Human beings are, Manguel notes, self-conscious animals, capable of experiencing the world by asking questions and putting our curiosity into words, then turning those words into stories that lead to further questions.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The search for knowledge, and the discontents associated with that search, provide a loose pretext for this rambling literary meditation.”—Publishers Weekly

“Certain books are so absorbing, and so wide-ranging, that even the index at the back becomes entertaining. Curiosity (Yale University Press), a new work by Alberto Manguel, falls in that category.”—Robert Fulford, National Post

“Elegant and erudite, his book is a celebration of critical reading—a challenging, enjoyable and essential craft that is in danger these days of becoming a lost art.”—Glenn Altschuler, Psychology Today

“A profound, insightful look into the human proclivity for questions, through literature.”—Noah Cruickshank, Shelf Awareness for Readers

"How wonderfully appropriate that the endlessly inquisitive Alberto Manguel should consider the fascinating concept of curiosity. Fueled by a lifetime of reading, and with Dante as his guide, he embarks on an elegantly conceived excursion of the mind, driven by a single, timeless word—why?"—Nicholas A. Basbanes, author of On Paper and A Gentle Madness

Curiosity is a book about the Talmud and the Mars rover, sophistry and knot-languages, David Hume and reading machines, Zoroaster and Pinocchio — and, periodically, curiosity and Dante. [Manguel] embraces the character of his own thinking — miscellaneous, excursive, fragmentary. . . . Closing the last page of this book, I wondered if perhaps Manguel intended to demonstrate curiosity in the behavior of his prose more than to discuss it. In many ways the book ought to be approached as a charming portrait of the curious man.”—Robert Minto, Open Letters Monthly

“[Manguel’s] ‘writing with what others have written,’ his insistence on being called a reader rather than a critic or an editor, is a noble stance, and he has been faithful to it. May he and his library long flourish.”—Philip Marchand, National Post

“An eloquent blend of philosophical review, literary audit and memoir. . . . There are plenty of intriguing images and illustrations embedded within the text that help to place us in an earlier time, but a reader’s experience with language can also be constructively reset with the help of Manguel. . . . Reading Manguel’s book is a pleasing reminder that time, as much as anything, changes our relationship with art, ideas, but also with language itself.”—Iain Reid, Toronto Globe & Mail

‘Alberto Manguel prides himself of having never lost that inquisitive quality, nor his passionate love of reading… he explores the books and philosophical ideas that informed his own work to ask the questions that occupy every one of us.’—The Good Book Guide

‘Alberto Manguel’s dizzying account of curiosity is a fitting testament to his life as a literary evangelist.’—Duncan White, the Daily Telegraph.

Curiosity is amongst the most interesting parades of humane knowledge, wry speculation and intellectual versatility that any curious person might hope to read… Time and again Manguel retrieves dusty stuff from the out-trays of history and restores them to beguiling currency.’—Frederic Raphael, Literary Review.

‘Enormously enjoyable about the pleasures of reading… [a book] about how books help us to be thoughtful, feeling human beings.’—Jonathan Bate, New Statesman.

"Alberto Manguel’s book, a song of praise to the art of asking questions and exploring answers, curiously escapes categorisation."—Marina Gerner, TLS

"Manguel wanders through art and literature, gathering material that enhances and elabourates… No precis or synopsis would do this book justice… The last two chapters represent, at least to me, Manguel’s narrative ascent into paradise. As I closed the book I felt a little as Dante did when brought into the presence of his Beatrice."—Andrea Goldsmith, Australian Book Review

“If there’s anyone alive today who is as widely read and bibliomaniacal as Borges was in his day, it’s the author of Curiosity, the latest in a series of Manguel’s meditations about reading, libraries, and the spectral spaces in the human psyche that literary works occupy.”—Robert Pogue Harrison, New York Review of Books

Curiosity is a meditation on what is important … it is best taken as if part of a long, fascinating conversation with an individual whose erudition and humanity leave one largely content to listen while nursing one’s own, parallel apprehensions.’ - Stoddard Martin, Jewish Chronicle
ISBN: 9780300219807
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
392 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 15/16
51 b/w illus.

László F.

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Please Talk to Me

Selected Stories

Liliana Heker; Translated by Alberto Manguel and Miranda Fr

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Faith in Reason

Alberto Manguel

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Packing My Library

An Elegy and Ten Digressions

Alberto Manguel

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