“The Ultimate Reader”

Der passende Titel für eine ausführliche Besprechung der beiden neuen Bücher des Bibliomanen Alberto Manguel: The Library at Night und A Reader on Reading.

John Gross schreibt unter anderem:

Writing of this kind, it need hardly be said, is often highly personal, and there are many points at which The Library at Night might best be classified as autobiography. For it is not just about libraries in general, but also about a specific library—the one Manguel has had built to house his own books (some 30,000 of them) in the village in the Loire valley where he has made his home in recent years, after growing up in Buenos Aires, living in Europe, and then becoming a Canadian citizen. The building itself was constructed around the ruined wall of a fifteenth-century stone barn, and he gives a loving account of its taking shape. (It is easy to imagine his thrill when he found that the local masons referred to the large stones they used as majuscules— capital letters—and the smaller ones as minuscules— lower-case letters.) He ruefully recalls the problems that were involved in trying to find the best order in which to arrange the books, and is reminded of his first attempts to organize those he owned into groups and subgroups, when he was a boy of seven or eight in Buenos Aires. […]

At almost every turn The Library at Night offers something of interest. Along with the anecdotes and the telling quotations, there are deft character sketches—of Melvil Dewey of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, for instance, or Antonio Panizzi, the political exile from Italy who became the most renowned of the British Museum’s librarians (he ended his days as Sir Anthony) and who presided over the creation of the museum’s domed Reading Room in its full Victorian glory. (Manguel doesn’t overlook less glorious aspects of the Reading Room’s history—tales of the fearsome „Museum flea“ that infested it in pre-Panizzi times, or Thomas Carlyle’s complaint about the number of „people in a state of imbecility“ who were granted admission: „I have been informed that there are several in that state who have been sent there by their friends to pass away the time.“)

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