Aug 16, 2019
Born in Buenos Aires in 1948, Alberto Manguel grew up in Tel-Aviv, where his father served as the first Argentinian ambassador to Israel. At sixteen, while working at the Pygmalion bookshop in Buenos Aires, he was asked by the blind Jorge Luis Borges to read aloud to him at his home. Manguel left Argentina for Europe before the horrors of the 'disappeared' began, and just after the events of May 1968. During the 1970s he lived a peripatetic life in France, England, Italy, and Tahiti, reviewing, translating, editing, and always reading. In the 1980s he moved to Toronto, Canada where he lived and raised his three children for almost twenty years. He became a Canadian citizen and continues to identify his nationality as first and foremost Canadian.
In 2000, Manguel purchased with his partner and renovated a medieval presbytery in the Poitou-Charentes region of France to house his 30,000 books. They left France for New York in 2015.
He has received many prizes, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and honorary doctorates from the universities of Liège, in Belgium, Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge, UK, and York and Ottawa in Canada. He is a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).
We met in Montreal at the Blue Met Literary Festival to talk about his latest book Packing My Library (published by Yale University Press). The conversation turns to Canadian politics and Jody Wilson Raybould at about the 42 minute mark and rages on and off from there to the finish. It's a passionate exchange about justice and honesty, and how literature informs real life.