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With Borges Paperback – October 1, 2006
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'Entertaining, insightful, concise ... a generous overview of Argentina's most important literary son ...' readysteadybook.com 'This delightful book provides readers a key to more than one secret room of Borges's magical worlds.' Mahmud Darwish 'Alberto Manguel is to reading what Casanova was to sex.' Scotland on Sunday 'THE MASTER AND MANGUEL ... Manguel may be the most learned reader writing at the moment.' The Globe and Mail '... his stories about Borges ... [are] wrapped in luminous poetry ... some will find Manguel's insights priceless.' The Toronto Star
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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 for less than an enthusiastic recommendation is that the book -- even at a discounted $10.76 from Amazon -- is rather pricey for 64 pages of double-spaced text.
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.)