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With Borges [Paperback]

Alberto Manguel
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 April 2006
In 1964, a blind writer approached a sixteen-year old bookstore clerk in Buenos Aires and asked if the latter would be interested in a part-time job reading aloud. The boy accepted, and for the following four years read to him, three to four times a week, from books by Kipling, Stevenson, Henry James and many others. The writer was Jorge Luis Borges, one of the finest literary minds in any era in any country; the boy (who did not consider himself especially privileged at the time) was Alberto Manguel, who would become internationally acclaimed as a prolific novelist, essayist, editor and bibliophile in his own right, intimately bound up himself with the pleasures of literature and of reading. In this slender volume, Manguel recalls those long-ago evenings when he would climb six flights of stairs to visit a darkened apartment (where the great man lived with his aged mother), which 'seemed to exist outside time'. Despite the urging of his aunt, who recognised the extraordinary opportunity to draw close to a living legend, Manguel took no notes during these sessions because he felt too 'contented': 'the conversations with Borges were what, in my mind, conversations should always be about: about books and about the clockwork of books, and about the discovery of writers I had not read before, and about ideas that had not occurred to me.' Part memoir, part biography, and all celebration of the living quality of literature, Manguel's reflections on the works of Borges and of the writers he admired form a portrait in mosaic of this enigmatic figure, and describe an important stage in the formation of a world-class reader.

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With Borges + A History of Reading + A Reader on Reading
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Product details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Telegram Books (7 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846590051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846590054
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 502,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Entertaining, insightful, concise ... gives a generous overview of Argentina's most important literary son. -- Ready Steady Book

‘Alberto Manguel is to reading what Casanova was to sex.’ -- Scotland on Sunday

‘His stories about Borges are wrapped in luminous poetry.’ -- Toronto Star

‘Manguel may be the most learned reader writing at the moment.’ -- Globe and Mail

‘This delightful book provides readers with a key to open more than one secret room of Borges’s magical worlds.’ -- Mahmoud Darwish

About the Author

Alberto Manguel is internationally acclaimed as an anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist and editor, and is the author of several award-winning books including A Dictionary of Imaginary Places and A History of Reading. He was born in Buenos Aires, became a Canadian citizen in 1982 and now lives in France, where he was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Blind man reading 7 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very jolly. Brief insight into the outer mind of the mighty Borges. Should have been longer but perhaps the brevity is symptomatic of the privacy of the man.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short But Sweet 9 Oct 2006
By James Paris - Published on Amazon.com
This is a book you can easily devour in one sitting (about an hour and a half should do it), especially if you know and love the writings of Jorge Luis Borges the way I do. The author, Alberto Manguel, was a bookstore clerk that Borges enlisted to read out loud to him, being himself blind. For several years beginning in 1964, Manguel showed up at Borges's apartment at Maipú 994 regularly for several years and read the books chosen by the author. When Borges composed poetry, he would dictate line by line, including the punctuation, to Manguel, who transcribed it--together with corrections--until it was ready to be submitted.

Apparently, Borges used several people in this role. Fortunately, Manguel grew up to be an award-winning writer in his own right. This makes WITH BORGES particularly valuable to people such as myself for the acuity of Manguel's insights.

Ever since I first read his collection LABYRINTHS in 1969, Borges has been one of the seminal influences in my life. I have sought out the books and authors he mentions, leading me to many of the world's great writers, poets, and philosophers. And the process is still unfolding, as I follow in the direction where THOSE books lead.

One discovery I made from reading this book was that Borges had written two poems based on Albrecht Dürer's famous engraving "Knight, Death, and Devil"--a work I have known and loved for years even before I made the acquaintance of Borges. I found the poem in my library and marvelled that I hadn't known about it. (Manguel mentions that engraving as the sole work of art hanging on Borges's bedroom wall.)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A charming and affectionate portrait of Borges 12 May 2009
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jorge Luis Borges was a customer of the bookstore where Alberto Manguel worked after school as a teenager in Buenos Aires, circa 1964. Borges, nearly blind, asked Manguel to be one of his pairs of eyes, one of those who read to him and, occasionally, took dictation for him. And so, for about four years, young Alberto Manguel went to Borges's apartment three or four times a week, and even after that extraordinary "job" ended Manguel remained friends with Borges, last seeing him about a year before he died.

WITH BORGES is a charming portrait of Borges, based primarily on those four years Manguel served as one of his readers. As one would expect from Alberto Manguel, it is well-written and virtually effortless to read. For fans of Borges, it offers interesting anecdotes and information (such as the books that Borges kept in the rather small apartment that he shared with his mother), and for those unacquainted wih him, it serves as a short and compassionate introduction, although by no means an exercise in hagiography. I personally find Borges fascinating, much more interesting as a man of letters than his work is as fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. One sentence seems to capture more of Borges than any other sentence I have read about him: "He believed, against all odds, that our moral duty was to be happy, and he believed that happiness could be found in books, even though he was unable to explain why this was so."

The only reason I give WITH BORGES only four stars is that it is so short (64 pages of double-spaced text) that even at a discounted $10.76 from Amazon, it is rather pricey.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Loving Memoir About a Great Writer 9 Oct 2008
By David Keymer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone who loves Borges (as I do) should read this slim (76 pages) volume. Alberto Maguel, himself from Borges's beloved Buenos Aires and a distinguished author (cf. especially his A History of Reading) was sixteen and working in a bookstore when a dignified sixtyish blind man introduced himself to him: it was Borges, already a legend in his homeland. Borges asked him if he'd be interested in coming to his apartment some nights and reading to him. For the next four years, Manguel read books while Borges listened -sometimes Borges's longtime favorites, Kipling and Stevenson. Borges also talked, about anything bookish. Manguel listened ... and remembered, even without notes. ("I didn't take notes because during those evenings I felt too contented.") "For Borges," writes Manguel, "the core of reality lay in books : reading books, writing books, talking about books." And what conversations they were, filled with wondrous apercus about literature and ranging across the world's literature from ancient epics to modern-day detective stories. Borges loved detective stories. Think of his enigmatic story, "Death and the Compass," which is a Kabbalistic detective story, if such a thing can exist). Borges is arguably one of the most influential modernist writers in the past century, as fascinating a personality as a writer. Manguel does us a service by bringing him to life once more.
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