Alberto Manguel reinvented his library in Lisbon
Approximately 40,000 books make up the report library of the Alberto Manguel Located in the old rational and yellow building Lisbon Municipal Archives. He acude to dos los dias a este rincón de la periferia para no faltar a su cita with the catalog of su memoria externa, con ese proceso que vincula las cajas de cartón llenas de libros en el primer piso con las estanterias metallicas y corredizas del almacen del Basement. thousand space.
tall and sober, unobtrusively elegant, leaves his hat and coat on the shelf, salutes Conceicao SantosHe sits down at the desk and begins his routine. As always, the experienced librarian of Afro-Portuguese origin has prepared several volumes and reveals the origin of each and gives clues as to the author or edition which guides her in their classification. The 800 boxes that arrived by boat from a warehouse in Montreal are disappearing at the rate of that daily conversation between the owner of the books and the technology that will make them public.
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As they speak slowly, with connivance and sarcasm, I am reminded of that chapter of Read pictures It is titled “Photo Puzzle”. There is a mystery in that print, in that man and in that woman, in those books and the librarian speaking before a table full of books. The key may be in the next chapter title: “Image as Witness”.
“I don’t know exactly how many, almost forty thousand, but I can’t venture an exact number,” he told me, “what I do know is that we are building a different system.” The private library that had been for fifteen years in a renovated old priest in the French village of Mondion, south of the Loire Valley, would not exist until 2015, when it had to be dismantled due to bureaucratic oppression by the local authorities. It is materialized in the Lisbon Municipal Network Library, which will be housed in a palace Marquis Pombal Renovated by the architect Teresa Nunes da Ponteand thus will follow the rules of Portuguese libraries.
“When the Mayor of Lisbon proposed that I donate my library to Lisbon, he thought of creating a new center for research on the history of reading, which is thematic.” The initials of that institution are CEHL, Reading Studies History CenterBut they soon realized that it was not a catchy name: “Then we decided to baptize this center of the future with a name that somehow indicated the possibility of always reviving the library, and we thought of Atlantis, because despite the myth of Plato, this utopian society, not ideal, but utopian, that drowns In the sea, disappearing, reborn over the centuries in our literature. Atlantida space It’s a “perfect name for a place of hope.”
It’s not a physical reality yet, but a web page that is slowly filling up with content in this secret space. It is announced that it will open next year. Meanwhile, entire collections are being run by Adolfo Bioy Casares And Jorge Luis Borgesthe books he assigned Julio CortazarAnd Margaret Atwood also Salman Rushdieor the hundreds of Dantesque-themed titles and thousands in the history of culture pass through the hands of Santos (“the holy lady of this place”) and Manguel (“unpacking books is a creative act”) before they are cataloged and stored in the exact order that scholars can consult and the wounded letter of all around the world.
Our last meeting took place in his office at the National Library of Argentina, where he told me his first job was as a bookseller: “Working in the library Pygmalion In Buenos Aires, it was an unusual experience for a bookish teenager like myself, and my first task was to dust off the books, because the owner said that in this way she could know where they were and what they were.” On the other hand, his work in the library: “It was almost the opposite. As a teenager in that bookstore who was discovering literature through the books and authors who came into the store, I became a kind of administrator, trying to remove obstacles to the work of real librarians.
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The experience also took place in a fractured country: “Unfortunately, it was like a football referee in a football match with the fans on one side and the fans on the other who did not act rationally, but simply like angry animals and where there is no dialogue, because the position of director of the National Library in Argentina is a political office, which is absurd because the library is everything but a place for political parties.”
Several cities in the United States, Europe, and other coordinates contacted Manguel to study the possibility of hosting his orphan books. Lisbon was the only one to put in an offer, put forward a plan and provide the resources to make it a reality. Among them, the filming of a documentary showing all aspects of the construction, from the cataloging process that takes place here daily to the architectural reform of the palace, the arrival of the container loaded with books at the port of the Atlantic. Present or move the Argentine writer.
At the moment, in addition to being able to devote himself full time to his study center, Manguel collaborates on Portuguese television and organizes courses of readings and conferences, so that at the age of 75 he has added to Spanish, English and French a new professional language. In the afternoons you can see him strolling along the river or browsing in bookstores like Bertrand or Da Travessa.
“We all carry in our brains an imaginary geography consisting of a world of places, some of which we have visited and some of which we have not,” he told me. And he adds: “In my imaginary geography there is Venice, Timbuktu, China, the South Seas, Buenos Aires and London, but the reflections in my books on that geography are not necessarily direct, perhaps with London I might associate it with, for example a book Arno Schmidt which I read there, but that has nothing to do with London.”
In the Fantasy Places Guide who wrote with Gianni Guadalupe The real Lisbon and London do not appear, but the London of the Thames is inhabited by gorillas who speak English thanks to the fact that they contain cells of eighteenth-century personalities in their bodies, according to his account. Edgar Rice Burroughs in Tarzan and the Lion Man. Bookstores, day and night, are a subgenre of fantasy literature.
“Reading is an activity that has roots in a certain place, and those roots appear when I open the book again,” he tells me, holding up a first edition of Charles Dickens. You can count on the fingers of one hand the times, throughout a lifetime, that we touch and look at each of our books. This is what the author does. While I pack up my library It was during these years that Lisbon adopted him and, in return, asked him to hand over 40,000 pieces that make up the puzzle of his biography.
When the books, one by one, pass through his hands and he looks at them through his metal spectacles and tells us where he bought them, who gave them to him or why they were important, I think it is in fact that detailed conversation with Conceicao Santos It is not necessary. This, in fact, is a rite of expropriation, farewell.
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