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With Borges Hardcover – Mar 20 2004
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In this elegant little memoir, winner of the Prix du Livre en Poitou-Charentes in 2003, Alberto Manguel recalls his visits with the famous literary master, Jorge Luis Borges, in Buenos Aires during the 1960s. When the two men first met in a bookstore, the blind Borges asked Manguel if he would be willing to read aloud to him in his apartment. The younger man agreed and thus began a fascinating friendship, one that gives the reader an intimate view into the arcane, magical life of one of the 20th century's greatest writers.
Using a simple but effective structure, Manguel mixes present tense anecdotes of his time with Borges--"memories of memories of memories"--with reflections on the Argentine writer's work. Manguel is a master of style--in one long, beautifully constructed sentence he writes of how Borges spoke of his blindness from the points-of-view of history, science, superstition, and elegy ("blindness and old age were different ways of being alone," Manguel writes). The author enumerates Borges's wide-ranging and manifold reading interests; records his acute, extravagant intelligence; and reveals his prejudices and his prodigious memory of the written word, which seemed more real to Borges than his daily life. Manguel reminds the reader of the fantastic ideas behind many of the Argentine's short stories and poems: that a single book, for example, contains all others because a book is nothing but the rearrangement of twenty-some letters. This exquisite little book, printed on fine paper, should be read slowly and savoured. --Mark Frutkin
For those who enjoy the written word, and especially for those who enjoy the fantastic writing of Borges, Manguel's book is confirmation of the pleasure that words can bring, whether to one of the greatest readers and writers of the 20th century or to a young man who would become one of Canada's most acclaimed writers.
...what ultimately binds Borges and Manguel as subject and author is that they see themselves as readers first and writers second. This is what makes With Borges so uniquely readable. (FFWD)
This is a lovely book. It's an exquisite, tautly written memoir of the last years of one great writer, as told by another. (Edmonton Journal)
Manguel dazzling reveals Borges by subtracting from the possible stories about him, allowing Borges to remain the grand puzzle he always was...Manguel's masterful book contains an eerie, lingering power... (Vue Weekly) See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.)
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.