on 17 January 2012
This is one of those books, that when you're reading it, you stop, turn it over in your hand as though looking for the trick, like some magic act, you saw it happen, you were real close, but ......? This book is including notes and woodcuts (Stevenson's own) only 105 pages long and yet Alberto Manguel manage to pack in so much as it focuses on Robert Louis Stevenson's last days dying of consumption on a tropical island. It plays with the idea of moral duality as in Stevenson's own Novella (Jekyll and Hyde), is Baker real or some Edward Hyde persona of Stevenson's allowed free reign whilst he slept. Also the writers attitude to the indigenous population as childlike innocents whose amoral existence was counterpoint to his 18th century Scottish Calvinist upbringing. That Alberto Manguel has managed to conjure up through Stevenson's own Tales (The Beach of Falesa), letters and biography a beautiful little book that plays with many ideas and questions concerning sensuality and repression, waking and dreaming, plus the whole craft of writing itself. Like his mentor Jorge Luis Borges, Manguel seems to place his own reading centre stage in his writing, by which I mean his dominant subject matter are books themselves, not as some influence on his writing but as the subject of it. If I played the game of who I would invite to some fictitious dinner party, Alberto Manguel' s name would be high on that list, as he appears to be the epitome of a representative of the Reading Life.
An odd little novella about Robert Louis Stevenson; this edition is lushly produced with posh covers and illustrated with some of Stevenson's own woodcuts (at 105 pages of big text it needs to justify its price tag!).
It's a story based on Stevenson's last days in Samoa as he is dying of tuberculosis. After his meeting with a newly arrived Scottish missionary, bad things start to happen and Stevenson is drawn into the events in a way such that in his ill state he can't be sure what's happening.
A powerful and slightly strange little story that echoes RLS's own work. Interesting but I would have preferred a longer novel or collection of stories.