Alberto Manguel

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Alberto Manguel

Manguel in 2013
Manguel in 2013
BornAlberto Manguel
March 13, 1948
Buenos Aires, Argentina
NationalityArgentinian, Canadian, French
GenreNovel, essay
Notable worksA History of Reading, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

Alberto Manguel OC FRSL (born March 13, 1948, in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-Canadian anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist, editor, and a former Director of the National Library of Argentina. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980), A History of Reading (1996), The Library at Night (2007) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008); and novels such as News From a Foreign Country Came (1991). Though almost all of Manguel's books were written in English, two of his novels (El regreso and Todos los hombres son mentirosos) were written in Spanish, and El regreso has not yet been published in English. Manguel has also written film criticism such as Bride of Frankenstein (1997) and collections of essays such as Into the Looking Glass Wood (1998). In 2007, Manguel was selected to be that year's annual lecturer for the prestigious Massey Lectures. in 2021, he gave the Roger Lancelyn Green lecture to the Lewis Carroll Society on his love of the 'Alice' stories from Lewis Carroll.

For more than twenty years, Manguel has edited a number of literary anthologies on a variety of themes or genres ranging from erotica and gay stories to fantastic literature and mysteries.


Manguel was born to Pablo and Rosalia Manguel, both Jewish.[1] He spent his first years in Israel where his father Pablo was the Argentine ambassador, returning to his native country at the age of seven. Later, in Buenos Aires, when Manguel was still a teenager, he met the writer Jorge Luis Borges, a customer of the Pygmalion Anglo-German bookshop in Buenos Aires where Manguel worked after school. As Borges was almost blind, he would ask others to read out loud for him, and Manguel became one of Borges' readers, several times a week from 1964 to 1968.

In Buenos Aires, Manguel attended the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires from 1961 to 1966; among his teachers were notable Argentinian intellectuals such as the historian Alberto Salas, the Cervantes scholar Isaias Lerner and the literary critic Enrique Pezzoni. Manguel did one year (1967) at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Filosofía y Letras, but he abandoned his studies and started working at the recently founded Editorial Galerna of Guillermo Schavelzon (who thirty-five years later, now established in Barcelona, was to become Manguel's literary agent). In 1969 Manguel travelled to Europe and worked as a reader for various publishing companies: Denoël, Gallimard and Les Lettres Nouvelles in Paris, and Calder & Boyars in London.


In 1971, Manguel, living then in Paris and London, was awarded the Premio La Nación (Buenos Aires) for a collection of short stories. The prize was shared with the writer Bernardo Schiavetta. In 1972 Manguel returned to Buenos Aires and worked for a year as a reporter for the newspaper La Nación. In 1974, he was offered employment as foreign editor at the Franco Maria Ricci publishing company in Milan. Here he met Gianni Guadalupi and later, at Guadalupi's suggestion, wrote with him The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. The book is a travel guide to fantasy lands, islands, cities, and other locations from world literature, including Ruritania, Shangri-La, Xanadu, Atlantis, L. Frank Baum's Oz, Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, Thomas More's Utopia, Edwin Abbott's Flatland, C. S. Lewis' Narnia, and the realms of Francois Rabelais, Jonathan Swift, and J.R.R. Tolkien. In 1976, Manguel moved to Tahiti, where he worked as editor for Les Éditions du Pacifique until 1977. He then worked for the same company in Paris for one year. In 1978 Manguel settled in Milford, Surrey (England) and set up the short-lived Ram Publishing Company. In 1979, Manguel returned to Tahiti to work again for Les Éditions du Pacifique, this time until 1982.


External videos
video icon Presentation by Manguel on A History of Reading, October 22, 1996, C-SPAN

In 1982 Manguel moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and lived there (with a brief European period) until 2000. He has been a Canadian citizen ever since. Here Manguel contributed regularly to The Globe and Mail (Toronto), The Times Literary Supplement (London), The Village Voice (New York), The Washington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Review of Books, The New York Times and Svenska Dagbladet (Stockholm), and reviewed books and plays for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Manguel's early impression of Canada was that it was " one of those places whose existence we assume because of a name on a sign above a platform, glimpsed at as our train stops and then rushes on." (from Passages: Welcome Home to Canada (2002), with preface by Rudyard Griffiths).[2] As well, though, Manguel noted that "When I arrived in Canada, for the first time I felt I was living in a place where I could participate actively as a writer in the running of the state."[3]

In 1983, he selected the stories for what is perhaps his best-known anthology Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature. His first novel, "News From a Foreign Country Came", won the McKitterick Prize in 1992.

In 1997, Manguel translated into English The Anatomist, first novel of the Argentine writer Federico Andahazi.

He was appointed as the Distinguished Visiting Writer in the Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Writers Program at the University of Calgary from 1997 to 1999. Manguel was the Opening Lecturer at the "Exile & Migration" Congress, Boston University, in June 1999, and the Times Literary Supplement lecturer in 1997.


Manguel at Fronteiras do Pensamento (Frontiers of Thought) in 2014

In 2000, Manguel moved to the Poitou-Charentes region of France, where he and his partner purchased and renovated a medieval presbytery. Among the renovations was an oak-panelled library to house Manguel's nearly 40,000 books.[4] In September 2020, the collection was donated to the Centre for Research in the History of Reading in Lisbon, Portugal with Manguel as its head.[5]

Manguel held the Cátedra Cortázar at the Universidad de Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2007 and the S. Fischer Chair at the Freie Universität Berlin, in 2003. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Liège.

Manguel delivered the 2007 Massey Lectures which were later published as The City of Words and in the same year delivered the Northrop Frye-Antonine Maillet Lecture in Moncton, New Brunswick. He was the Pratt Lecturer at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in 2003.

In 2008, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris honoured Alberto Manguel as part of its 30th Anniversary Celebrations, by inviting him to set up a three-month long program of lectures, film and round tables.

He writes a regular column for Geist magazine.

Manguel's book History of Reading was referenced as a source of inspiration to the Book of Sand film.[6] He suffered a stroke in December 2013, and reflected on the experience in a 2014 op-ed in The New York Times.[7]

In December 2015 he was named director of the National Library in his native Argentina, replacing Horacio González.[8] Manguel held the post from July 2016 to August 2018.[9]

In 2018 he was awarded the Gutenberg Prize of the International Gutenberg Society and the City of Mainz.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Pauline Ann Brewer from 1975 to 1986, and their children are Alice Emily, Rachel Claire, and Rupert Tobias.[1] Upon divorcing Brewer in 1987, Manguel began seeing his current partner Craig Stephenson.[10][11] He has been a member of the Roxburghe Club since 2021.[12]



  • News from a Foreign Country Came. New York: C. Potter, 1991
  • Stevenson Under the Palm Trees. 2003. ISBN 0-88762-138-4
  • El regreso (A Return). 2005. ISBN 950-04-2653-6
  • Un amant très vétilleux (The Overdiscriminating Lover). 2005, ISBN 978-2-7427-5438-0
  • Todos los hombres son mentirosos (All Men Are Liars). 2008. ISBN 978-84-9867-340-1



Critical studies and reviews[edit]

Prizes and awards[edit]

  • Gutenberg Prize of the International Gutenberg Society and the City of Mainz (Germany, 2018)[13]
  • Prix Formentor (Spain, 2017)
  • Medalla al Mérito (Buenos Aires, 2007)
  • Milovan Vidakovic Literary Award (Novi Sad, Serbia, 2007)
  • Premio Grinzane Cavour, essay for Diario di un lettore (Italy, 2007)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Liège (Belgium, 2007)
  • Prix Roger Caillois (France, 2004)
  • Fellow of the S. Fischer Stiftung (Germany, 2004–2005)
  • Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France, 2004)
  • Fellow of the Simon Guggenheim Foundation (USA, 2004)
  • Prix Poitou-Charentes for Chez Borges (France, 2004)
  • Premio Germán Sánchez Ruipérez for best literary criticism (Spain, 2002)
  • Prix France Culture (Étranger), for Dans la forêt du miroir (France, 2001)
  • Prix Médicis Essai, for Une Histoire de la lecture (France, 1998)
  • Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France, 1996)
  • Harbourfront Award for Contribution to the Arts (Canada, 1992)
  • Canadian Writers' Association Award, fiction (Canada, 1992)
  • McKitterick First Novel Award (UK, 1992)
  • Lewis Gallantière Translation Prize (honourable mention), American Translators Association (USA, 1986)
  • German Critics Award for Von Atlantis bis Utopia, German translation of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (Germany, 1981)
  • Literary Award La Nación for short stories (Buenos Aires, 1971)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Manguel, Alberto 1948– - Dictionary definition of Manguel, Alberto 1948– | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  2. ^ "THE PENGUIN DICTIONARY OF POPULAR CANADIAN QUOTATIONS - John Robert Colombo - Penguin Books". Archived from the original on May 21, 2008. Retrieved October 30, 2006.
  3. ^ Alberto Manguel by Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News.
  4. ^ Alberto Manguel – Speaking at his and David Mason's lecture "You Are What You Read" at Kingston WritersFest, on Sat. 28 Sep. 2013, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  5. ^ Offman, Craig (September 13, 2020). "Alberto Manguel to donate 40,000 works to Lisbon's Centre for Research into the History of Reading". The Globe and Mail.
  6. ^ Video on YouTube
  7. ^ Alberto Manguel (March 7, 2014). "Thoughts that Can't Be Spoken". The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  8. ^ Nolen, Stephanie (May 12, 2017). "Argentina's page turner: How a Canadian author became the leader of a library revolution". The Glkobe and Mail.
  9. ^ Samela, Gabriela (August 8, 2018). "Why Canadian Alberto Manguel's surprise exit from Argentina's national library spurred a national controversy". The Globe and Mail.
  10. ^ "Argentina's page turner: How a Canadian author became the leader of a library revolution". Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  11. ^ "Alberto Manguel and the Library of Babel – Tablet Magazine". Archived from the original on June 13, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2018.
  12. ^ "Roxburgh Club membership roll". Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  13. ^ "Verleger Gerhard Steidl aus Göttingen bekommt Gutenberg-Preis". HNA (in German). 2020-10-11. Archived from the original on 2020-10-13. Retrieved 2021-11-15.

External links[edit]