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The Library at Night

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Inspired by creating a library for his fifteenth-century home near the Loire, in France, the author tours from his childhood bookshelves to the Internet, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google. He ponders the doomed library of Alexandria and personal libraries of Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, and others.

He recounts stories of people who have struggled against tyranny to preserve freedom of thought—the Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety as the Nazis began their destruction of Jewish libraries; the Afghani bookseller who kept his store open through decades of unrest. Oral “memory libraries” kept alive by prisoners, libraries of banned books, the imaginary library of Count Dracula, a library of books never written.

373 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Alberto Manguel

218 books1,659 followers
Alberto Manguel (born 1948 in Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (co-written with Gianni Guadalupi in 1980) and 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).

Manguel believes in the central importance of the book in societies of the written word where, in recent times, the intellectual act has lost most of its prestige. Libraries (the reservoirs of collective memory) should be our essential symbol, not banks. Humans can be defined as reading animals, come into the world to decipher it and themselves.

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Author 3 books249k followers
June 27, 2019
”When evening comes,” he wrote, “I return home and go into my study. On the threshold I strip off my muddy, sweaty, workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the antique courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, for which I was born. There I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives for their actions, and they, in their humanity reply to me. And for the course of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexations, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death: I pass into their world.”

Niccolo Machiavelli

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Niccolo Machiavelli, a passionate reader.

It is interesting, given the title of this book, that I read most of it in the middle of the night. Not the best choice of reading material if the main objective is to go back to sleep. I usually keep a heavy, ponderous tome near to hand for nights of insomnia, but given that I went to bed thinking about this book I couldn’t possibly even try to read something else when my eyelids snapped open at 2AM. I do have a self imposed rule that I must go to bed by 4AM regardless of whether I’m tired because I still have this job that requires me to be cognizant enough to make decisions that will continue to make rich people richer. Every morning I’m up at 6 to read for an hour before hitting the shower. By 7:30 I’m at my desk at work already pining for the book that I left on my nightstand at home.

The time between 2 and 4AM is a magical time. The world is as quiet as it is capable of being. Dust motes are suspended in the air and the pool of light over my head is a flame of focused energy creating a cocoon of darkness around me that waits…waits in that space until I decide to allow the real world to exist again.

”I have no feeling of guilt regarding the books I have not read and perhaps will never read; I know that my books have unlimited patience. They will wait for me till the end of my days. They don’t require that I pretend to know them all….”

I have over 3,000 books in my library, large by most standards, small in comparison to the great collectors throughout history. I don’t read in my library. I browse and nibble at books while I’m in there, as I’m trying to pick out my next book to read. It has become pure fallacy for me to decide ahead of time what I will read next. My reading must not be confined by schedules. When I was a kid and owned only a few ratty paperbacks I would put them in an order to read trying to bring a semblance of efficiency to my most intimate pleasure. My mind decides what I need to feed it next and it can change within a matter of moments.

I do have my eye on an oxblood swivel chair that coupled with perfect lighting might provide me a reading space in my library. ”Somewhere in Stratford, Ontario, is a solitary candleholder that dates back (its owner boasts) to Shakespeare’s time; it may once have held a candle whose brief life Macbeth saw as a reflection of his own. The lamps that guided Dante’s exiled reading in Ravenna and Racine’s cloistered reading Port-Royal, Stendhal’s in Rome and De Quincey’s in London, all were born of words calling out from between their covers; all were light assisting the birth of light.

I’ve piled up a lot of mileage on my eyes and proper lighting is so much more important to me now than it was twenty years ago. I can remember times when I read by moonlight usually on the rusted tin roof of an outlier shed that slumped on the edge of my father’s property. I had this tattered woven rug of many colors I would lay on until the heat from the sun trapped in the tin escaped. The shed’s walls were sided in flattened cans that once held beans for American soldiers during WW2. The stars were over my shoulder so as not to distract. My galaxy was forming in the book before me as the world continued to change and evolve behind me. Dim lighting is no longer viable for me and a lamp is now judged more by how it will light the page of a book than by the aesthetic value of it’s form.

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Michelangelo designed the steps for the Laurentian Library in Florence. He made three separate staircases, each different, as if to give the reader a choice of which world he wishes to enter.

”In my study I also require certain talismans that have washed onto my desk over the years, which I distractedly finger while I think of the next words to write, Renaissance scholars recommended keeping different objects in the study: musical and astronomical instruments to lend variety and harmony to the space, natural curiosities such as strangely shaped stoned and coloured shells. and portraits of Saint Jerome, patron saint of readers. I follow their recommendation in part. Among the objects on my desk are a horse-shaped soapstone from Congonhas do Campo, a bone carved into a skull from Budapest, a pebble from the Sibyl’s Cave near Cumae. If my library chronicles my life story, my study holds my identity.”

I don’t really have a study. I do have an office at work with art I’ve accumulated from my travels. I have a poster of La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi that I bought in Barcelona. I have a blown-up version of the dust cover art from the first edition of The Great Gatsby. I have a poster of the thinker bought at the Musee Rodin in Paris. I have photos of places I’ve been scattered shotgun style around my office walls. Behind me I have a large copy ( I wish I could say I have the original.) of Wheatfield With Crows.

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My Reading Chair where all the magic happens.

I have artwork in my library at home as well as I did not want to have solid walls of books even though it was difficult giving up space that could shelve more books. An Aztec calendar that I’ve had longer than any other decoration is the perfect size to hide the electrical box. I have a watercolor of New Orleans that I bought from the artist himself. (Cash was king that night.) I have objects that I have picked up here and there. Two of my favorites are a smooth cylindrical stone that I found on the beach of California that fits my hand perfectly. The other is a piece of root from a dead bush that has a florescent yellow wood grain that looks like something from another planet. I have a resin monk whose face is hidden by a cowl. His smooth head is rubbed by my hand almost every time I enter my library. I have a water nymph bought in San Francisco that I hope will protect my library from being flooded again. I’ve helped her out with making a few engineering changes to the house as well. It is impossible for me to leave fate totally to spiritual matters.

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One wall of my library.

”As any reader knows, a printed page creates its own reading space, its own physical landscape in which the texture of the paper, the colour of the ink, the view of the whole ensemble acquire in the reader’s hands specific meanings that lend tone and context to the words.”

The first question people ask me when they enter my library is if I’ve read all these books. Anybody who is a reader would never ask that question. “God no, that would be horrible” is my favorite response. I don’t know what percentage of my library has been read by me and I have no interest in finding out. I will never read all the books in my library because I will always continue to buy books for my library. Every two years or so I go through and clean out the books that didn’t make the cut to stay permanently. I shuffle them off to bookstores to trade for more books or I simply give them to the local library. The library evolves as my brain continues to seek out new avenues for exploration. I am, dare I say, a renaissance reader.

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Sir Thomas Browne being inspired by death. Woodcut by Gwen Raverat.

”We know that the body is corruptible and the stuff of which it is made impermanent. But we also know that the soul [and I, the scrolls’ future reader, will interject, “the book,”] is immortal and imperishable.”

Alberto Manguel as he talks about his library also entertains the reader with stories about libraries both public and private around the world. He talks about reading almost as a form of worship. He will speak for you of thoughts you’ve maybe only felt and certainly never shared with anyone else. You will have lightning bolt moments reading this book. You will be inspired to embrace the reasons that you read. You might even evolve as a reader. The library in your head will suddenly seem attainable. You will wonder why you own a TV.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for هدى يحيى.
Author 9 books16.3k followers
April 30, 2019

كلّ واحد من كتبي هرب
إمّا من النار أو الماء أو غبار الزمن
أو من القراء المهملين أو يد الرقيب
وأتى إلى هنا كي يحكي لي قصّته

كل واحد من كتبي له قصة
وكلها تحكي رحلتي المتواضعة مع القراءة
كلها تعبر عني وعن حقيقتي
شغفي ،، تدرجي في معرفة الكتب المفيدة ،، آثار مراهقتي الفكرية ومحاولاتي البائسة كي أنضج وأتعلم
ذكريات ليال قضيتها أنا وكتبي أحاول الهرب من كل ما حولي والغرق في الصفحات المضيئة والعوالم السحرية ،، حالتي المادية ،،ونوعية الكتب التي هربت وأتت إلي من سور الأزبكية تصاحبها إصدارات مكتبة الأسرة ،، ثم المكان المقفر الذي أتعايش معه حيث الثقافة فيه عالما ثانويا لا متطلبا رئيسيا من متطلبات الحياة

وهكذا جلست وألبرتو لنتعلم سويا عن بعضنا البعض
لنتبادل خبراتنا وشغفنا

لأشعر بمزيد من التواضع والخجل حين أعلم عن قراءاته وعن مكتبته وعن الحياة التي اختارها لنفسه

مع أكواب من الشاي المنكه بالقرنفل
وبعض كتبي الورقية المفضلة
كانت كل ذكرياتي مع كتبي تتجسم حولنا وتصنع من أنفسها كائنات تنبض لها حيواتها الخاصة بين الهاديء والوقور والصاخب والرومانسي والمادي

وجلسنا جميعا
الكائن المذهل الشغوف بالكتب
الكاتب العجيب المفطور على القراءة
المستسلم لسحر المكتبات خصوصاً في الليل

حيث لا صوت سوى همسنا الممزوج بضحكات خافتة
ولا شغف سوى الكتب
والكتب فقط


كنتُ أسمعها في رأسي‎
الأسطر السوداء والفراغات البيضاء الموجودة بين الأسطر‎
تحولت فجأة إلى معانٍ ذات إيقاع‏‎
وفي حوار صامت مملوء بالاحترام تعرفنا بعضنا إلى بعض‎
وما إن تمكنتُ من ربط العلامات السوداء النحيلة بعضها مع بعض وتحويلها إلى حقائق حية‎
حتى أصبحت إنساناً جبّاراً‎
كنتُ أستطيع أن أقرأ

هذا الصوت الممتع في الرأس
صوت فعل القراءة
هذه اللذة الغير معقولة والتي تحول الحروف لكلمات والكلمات لمعاني

هذه اللذة التي تتأتى من ملكة غامضة طورناها على مدار ملايين السنين

هكذا تختلط الأمور لدي وأنا أحاول مراجعة هذا الكتاب
تتدخل ذاتيتي أكثر من اللازم
يتداخل إنطباعي عن كتاب المكتبات وسحرها مع عشق فعل لقراءة و الغرام بالكتب

وأستمر في الكتابة وتتزداد الأسطر رغمًا عني


المكتبة هويّة

أعرف تماما أنّ شيئاً ما يموت في داخلي عندما أستغني عن كتبي
وأن ذكرياتي تعود إليها دوما وأبدًا
وتصيبني بحنين مؤلم للغاية

‏ ‏لا أستطيع مطلقاً وضع تعريف عن نفسي بدون أن يتضمن هذا التعريف كلمة قارئة

وربما أصدق تعريف لي هو قارئة وقارئة فقط
وما أنتمي إليه بالأساس هي مكتبتي
أشعر بأنها تحدد هويتي و تعطيني صفة المواطنة

ورثتُ عشق القراءة عن جدي
و للأسف لم أره أبداً فقد رحل عن العالم وأنا لم أتمم عاماً واحداً بعد
أحياناً أتصور لو أنني تعرفت إليه وتحاورنا حول لذة القراءة
لو ارتكنت إلى صدره وحكيت له عن تجاربي القرائية وانفعالاتي بها

أتخيل فقط لأنني حرمت من هذه الفرصة إلى الأبد
كل ما ورثته عنه هو مكتبته الخشبية البسيطة‏
فمعظم الك��ب أضاعها أولاده للأسف ولم أستطع أن أتعرف عليها

وهكذا اجتمعنا أنا وجدي في حضن يشبهنا
هو بخشبه الدافيء القديم وأنا بكنزي الذي اختلسته في غفلة من الدنيا
كتبي الورقية


القراءة هوس

كل قارئ يوجد كي يضمن لكتاب معين
قدرا متواضعا من الخلود
القراءة بهذا المفهوم هي طقس انبعاث

أحلم بالكتب مفتوحة أمامي
أقرأ السطور وأنا نائمة فأتابع أحداث رواية لم أنهها مثلاً
ولطالما حاول عقلي الباطن صنع أحداث جديدة للروايات بل وأحياناً للكتب الخالية من الدراما كأن تكون علمية أو أدبية مثلًا

الكتب لها أقدارها الخاصّة

فكرة أن تكون القراءة للاستفادة فقط تؤلم روحي
القراءة أرقى من أن تكون مجرد معلومات مكدسة
أعظم من أن تقيم بمدى استفادتك منها
الحروف ألقها في ذاتها
في امتزاجها بروحك
وأنت تتشربها على مهل
أو تركض وراءها لاهثَا
أو متعمقًأ فيما بين ‏السطور

أيا كانت حالتك القرائية
فأنت تنغمر بكلّيتك في اللذة

في الليل-هنا في المكتبة يصبح للأشباح أصواتا

هناك مرحلة آخري بعد عشق القراءة كفعل
وهي عشق الكتاب ذاته
شكله ،، ملمسه ،، رائحته ،، تجليده
الورق بداخله
هنا تتعامل مع الكتاب ككائن يتنفس
امتداد لروحك النهمة

وككل الكائنات الحية كل كتاب يعامل بطريقة
فهناك كتاب تفتحه على مهل تملس عليه برقة وتخشى أن تستعمل قلمك معه

وهناك كتب تحب أن تداعبها بقلمك ‏
تحضنها وتتكرمش بعض صفحاتها وتكون هي سعيدة أكثر بتلك الحميمية

هناك كتب قديمة صفحاتها كادت أو تكون صفراء
تتذكر معها أوقاتا أقدم في حياتك
تقرأ هوامشها وتضحك أو تبكي
تتذكر أين كنت تجلس حين لامست هذا الكتاب لأول مرة

أظن أن هذه الحالة تسمى هوس
وأنا أحــــب هوسي

لوحة قارئ دوستويفسكي ل‎ ‎‏
إميلا فيلا


المكتبة طيفًا

في الضوء نقرأ ابتكارات الآخرين..
في الظلام نبتكر قصصنا الخاصّة..

أحب كل ما يستطيع أن يهمس إليك
أن تلامسه بأصابعك
كخطاب ورقي لا إلكتروني
وككتاب يصافحني برائحته الجديدة أو القديمة‏

فلكل رائحة معنى خاص عندي
ولا يمكن أبداً مقارنة الكتاب الورقي بالإلكتروني من هذه الناحية

هناك لذة خاصة بالصفحات المطبوعة
لذة تقليب ورقات الكتاب
والقلم في يدك تصنع به هوامشك الخاصة‏

الكتاب الإلكتروني أعانني كثيرًا أنا ومن هم مثلي
ممن لا تسمح أوضاعهم المادية بإرضاء ‏جوعهم الدائم إلى كتاب جديد

إنما يبقى الورقى بكل تفاصيله هو سيد القراءة وأساس الشعور بلذتها

أنا فقط أشعر بكثير من الاستياء ممن يحاربون الكتاب الإلكتروني
أو ممن لا يزال يتساءل أتوفيره مجانا خطأ أم صواب

أشعر أن من يتناقش في مسألة كهذه يتوجه لي شخصيا بإهانة بالغة

كأنه يقول لي ببساطة أنتِ لا تستحقين قراءة كتاب كذا أو كذا لأنكِ لا تملكين ثمنه

بشكل عام
فإن وضع تسعيرة للثقافة هو عار على البشرية
وأن يتاح الأدب لمن يدفع أكثر فذلك بلا مبالغة
"قلة أدب"-

لابد وأن يكون الكتاب متاحًا كالماء والهواء
لا كشعار أجوف
بل كبديهية لا تحتمل المزح أو المفاوضة

المكتبة وطنًا

القصص هي ذاكرتنا
والمكتبات هي مستودعات تلك الذاكرة
والقراءة هي الحرفة التي نستطيع من خلالها إعادة تشكيل تلك الذاكرة بترجمتها إلى تجاربنا الخاصة

صحيح أن الكتاب بمحتواه أولًا
-"و أن ما يبقى "بداخلك" هو ما قرأته "بداخله
ولكن هناك بعض الحالات قد لا يحدث ذلك بالضرورة

هناك كتب ارتبط بها وبورقها إرتباطًا روحيًا وحسيًا عميقين

فرائحة كتاب معين وملمسه –خشنا كان أم ناعماً لامعاً
وتذكر المكان والوقت الذي قرأته فيه
وهوامشي المتناثرة في صفحاته العزيزة

كل ذلك يعطيني شعورا دائما بالنوستالجيا
للوقت الذي قرأته فيه

وقد تكون –وهي بالفعل في حالتي كذلك- ليست أهم كتب قرأتها من ناحية المحتوى والقيمة‏
ولكنها اندمجت في ذكرياتي بشكل لا أستطيع التعبير عنه وإيفاءه حقه

-"أصبحت الكتب وطنا صغيرًا تعيش "بداخله



المكتبة جوعًا ونهمًا

الكتب القديمة التي عرفنا عنها ولم نمتلكها تعبر طريقنا وتدعو نفسها ثانية
والكتب الجديدة تحاول إغواءنا يوميّا بالعناوين المثيرة والأغلفة المحيّرة

ربما لا يكون هناك أمتع من قراءة الكتب إلا الحديث عنها
لذة احتضان كتاب
شكل مكتبتك وهي تكبر أمامك
متعة الامتلاك

أعرفكم بجانب آخر مني

أنا القارئة الجشعة
أنا النهمة الشرهة للأبد
الجائعة لامتلاك كتاب جديد

ربما ظروفي المادية قد تقف عائقاً أمام هذا الجشع ولكنني أحياناً ينفلت منّي العيار حين أصبح بداخل ‏أي معرض للكتاب
صدري يضطرم وأشعر برغبة حارقة بالفرار بجميع الكتب واختزانها وجعلها لي وحدي فقط

هل تذكرت غولوم؟
لأنني فعلت
Books are really my precious :P


المكتبة ترتيبًا

ليس لديّ أي شعور بالذنب بشأن الكتب التي لم أقرأها و ربما لن أقرأها أبداً، فأنا أعرف بأن كتبي لديها صبر لا حدود له. سوف تظلُّ تنتظرني حتى نهاية العمر. و هي لا تطلب من أن أتظاهر بأني أعرفها كلها
الكتب المنسيّة في مكتبتي تحيا حياةً صامتةً لا تلفت النظـر.
مع هٰذا فإن ميزة كونها منسيّة
تُتيح لي أحياناإعادة اكتشاف
قصّة معيّنة
قصيدة معيّنة
كما لو أنها جديدة تماماً بالنسبة لي

كل كتاب ورقي على رفه الخشبي له له ظروفه الخاصة

أنظر إلى الرفوف المختلفة والتي تعكس ذوقي -وما كان ذوقي قديمًا أيضًا


المكتبة وسيلة بقاء

أعطتني القراءة عذرًا مقبولًا لعزلتي
بل ربما اعطت مغزىً لتلك العزلة المفروضة عليّ

لا أستطيع أن أفكر بشيء آخر كان إلى جانبي دوما سوى الكتاب
البشر يتغيرون
والكل في حياة الكل أشبه بالمحطات

ويبقى الكتاب الذي لابد وأنه شعر بحاجته إلي كما حاجتي إليه‏
ألمسه فأجده كان تواقاً للمسات أصابعي‏
يحمل ضحكاتي ودموعي ويرفق بي ‏
‏ يناقشني ويتشاجر معي ويصالحني كل مرة‏

ما الذي أبقاني على قيد الحياة بعد مشيئة الله؟
الكتب ‏
والكتب وحدها

الصورة لهيلين كيللر
تـ قـ رأ

Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
May 11, 2019
Paradise in Danger

The Library at Night is my Bible, Quran and Vedic guide on the aesthetics of this somewhat odd institution called the library. Odd because the concept of a warehouse filled with printed volumes available for general consultation is a rather late development in European civilisation, and odd because it is a concept that seems to have run its course as that civilisation becomes more technological. For this latter reason alone Manguel's aesthetic observations are critical: something is being lost in the technology, quite apart from the books.

I have supervised a small collegiate academic library at the University of Oxford for the last 10 years. But I am not a professional librarian, by which I mean I have no degree or other qualifications in so-called Library Science. I am not, in other words, a member of that fraternity. In some ways this is an advantage since, unlike many of my colleagues in the university, I can actually pay attention to books and readers rather than technology and 'best practice' techniques.

Having said that, my first experience of librarianship was over forty years ago. I worked at the time for a well-known firm of management consultants in New York City. On my first day with the firm I was assigned to a pro bono project with the New York Public Library. The Library's card catalogue, much of it on highly acidic paper produced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was crumbling away to dust. Informed just of these minimal facts I was dispatched to 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan

The client was the chair of the Board of Trustees, the formidable Mrs Brooke Astor. Mrs. Astor asked if we could meet daily for tea so that I could brief her on the seriousness of the state of affairs and suggest what might be done. It turned out that the situation was more acute than Mrs. Astor had assumed. It was even worse than anything Manguel had encountered in his exceptionally thorough research.

Not only was the NYPL card catalogue disintegrating, but when a card was lost or severely damaged, it meant that the associated volume was irrecoverable. The reason: since the library opened in 1911 its books had been catalogued with a shelf location according to, not subject or title or author, which might have allowed a proximity search, but date of receipt by the Library. That is, for all intents and purposes books were stored in an entirely random order. A missing book therefore was the needle in a very large haystack.

Fortunately, solving the problem was easy. The library was closed for 2 months. The catalogue boxes were sealed and crated in situ. All of the approximately 2 million cards were shipped by air to South Korea where a small army of data entry clerks who neither read nor spoke English completed a virtually flawless electronic transcription. In fact, it was because they knew no English and could not therefore erroneously interpolate that their accuracy was so high.

This was my first lesson in the concrete importance of library aesthetics. It was also my last until I wandered into Blackfriars Oxford. I wasn't aware either of Manguel's book, or my need for It. So I stumbled blindly into his aesthetic categories without assistance.

Whatever else it is, a library is about the relationships among books and between an entire assemblage of books and some specific group of readers. Manguel's sense of the library collection as a whole is consequently vital. My first task at Blackfriars was the disposition of approximately 10,000 books left from several legacies and stored in boxes in every available nook and cranny in the college. So I was immediately forced into acts of wanton vandalism and arbitrary censorship. Books are not equal, even if they're free, even if they're economically valuable.

Making a choice about which to keep, which to sell, and which to give away is in some way soul-destroying to anyone with a fondness for books. But it also forces a decision on what one thinks the library is. Blackfriars is both a research and undergraduate library so there is a tendency is to keep as much as possible. On the other hand, our members have access to the enormous Bodleian collection as well as to other collegiate libraries. Rational prudence dictates therefore to only take unique new items.

Ultimately the only thing a librarian can do is make an aesthetic judgement about the coherence of the entire collection. But he or she must make this judgment that no one else feels obliged to. And the judgement must be advertised as widely as possible until its challenged. My judgement was to develop certain major classifications – the European Holocaust, North American Philosophy, South American fiction for example. These classifications have become sharper over the years but no one has challenged me yet. And we have developed a certain reputation in the university as a consequence. I'm supposing that my taste and sense of balance has been accepted. That or I'm considered too irascible to contradict.

Manguel's appreciation of the aesthetics of power in the library is something I know many of my colleagues in other university libraries lack. Deciding who can be a member, who can access the collection and for what reasons is an exercise in power, one that has significant effects in academia.

The original great library of Alexandria was meant as both a storage place to access printed material and as a meeting place for scholars. At Blackfriars, this is still the case. But physical space is limited and there is a significant population of riff-raff that one does not want on the premises even at Oxford. I'm forced to make snap-judgments daily about the scholarly value of individuals applying for access. Once again the only way I know of to avoid arbitrariness is to be as explicit as possible about the criterion for membership and the reasons for it. Sometimes a smile has swayed me I admit, but overall there haven't been too many complaints.

The ordering of books on the shelves is not a trivial matter as Manguel notes. Quite apart from the NYPL issue, the placement of books determines the types of random encounters that readers are likely to make. We use a modified Library of Congress classification. But the LC is notoriously bad in theology. So in the 1950's one of my predecessors modified the system, using the then unassigned class of BQ for Christian Writers. Since then BQ has been designated by the LC for Hindu studies. Consequently we get a number of calls inquring whether our exceptionally large Hindu collection is available for browsing.

I have an ongoing aesthetic battle with the technical establishment of the Bodleian itself. As a collegiate library, we are entirely independent of the Bodleian but participate in the university-wide catalogue which is maintained by them. The Bodleian, like the Library of Congress and other large institutions, essentially sells its cataloguing information to lesser libraries and so has a commercial interest in the technical precision of catalogue entries.

The 'language' in which the catalogue is expressed is a cross between computer-code and a group-constructed corporate memo - highly structured but entirely irrational. It is ugly, it is costly and it is a symbol to me of bureaucratic domination. The Bodleian has an interest in it. I do not. Our readers can easily find what they need through the traditional author, title and subject headings plus a little local knowledge. The Bodleian demand conformity; I find their demands unpleasant and presumptuous. Our modus vivendi is that I do it my way and they spend any additional effort necessary to do it their way. High-tech aesthetics are clearly not my cup of tea..

I could go on commenting on the relevance of each of Manguel's categories – the library as workshop, as imagination, as mind, as myth, as memory, as a snub to death - but I think the point is made. His view of the library as an essentially aesthetic object is correct and it is operational. Everything from architecture to the order of books on shelves can be subsumed under an aesthetic. The aesthetic is not arbitrary but it is also not linearly rational. It is certainly not limited to the purely economic or technical constraints that seem to dominate discussions among librarians. Ultimately the aesthetic is some manifestation of a shared ideal. And there are better and worse ideals depending on how inclusive they are.

Jorge Luis Borges was director of the National Library of Argentina for 18 years. His idealised vision of the library carries some weight given his career as a writer. Reflecting his regard for the Jewish mystical treatise, The Zohar, Borges conceived the universe itself as a book. For him paradise "existed in the shape of a library" where one could constantly encounter the unexpected, the disconcerting, and, with a bit of luck, oneself. That's the most inclusive ideal I've yet to encounter.

Postscript: Just to show how inclusive, this piece just showed up in the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/27/blood-bookworms-bosoms-and-bottoms-the-secret-life-of-libraries
Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,468 followers
August 12, 2012
Alberto Manguel understands you.

He knows that you look at your shelves at night, remembering a favorite passage, or how you acquired a book, as your gaze moves across titles on spines in the moonlight.

He sympathizes with your attempts to figure out new ways to organize your books, a task that becomes more urgent and, at the same time, more impossible as time passes and your collection grows outside the spatial boundaries of your shelves, or perhaps even of your home.

He understands your frustration when you realize that you have forgotten books that you already have read, or that you remember specific passages or illustrations, but can't remember the book they come from.

He accepts your practice of looking at books at friends' and acquaintances' houses, scanning titles and analyzing organizational schemas to glean some clues about their owners' likes, dislikes, even their identity.

He understands you because he is also a passionate bibliophile. He openly admits his own habits and foibles around books. And he's made a career out of writing books about books for people who love books.

In The Library at Night, Manguel starts with his personal project - to oversee the renovation of a 15th-century barn, south of the river Loire, to house his own library. Once you shake off the envy (a 15th-century barn as a personal library! renovating it to your specifications! in France!!!), you can accompany Manguel on his thematic exploration of the meanings of libraries across history - personal libraries as well as public libraries. Manguel has organized each chapter around a specific function or theme connected to libraries - The Library as Myth, The Library as Order, The Library as Chance, The Library as Oblivion, etc. He studies each theme from many perspectives - his personal experience, historical accounts and literary evidence, illustrations, quotes and many wonderful anecdotes.

I am not including any specific examples of the stories he tells, since part of the joy of this book is in being surprised when you turn a page, alternating with feeling a sense of familiarity with Manguel's expressing a feeling or experience that you share. Be warned though - this is the sort of book that leads you to follow friends, family members, and colleagues around, as you say excitedly, "Just listen to this!"

My main criticism of the book is that the reproduction of the images, especially photographs, is not the best. On the other hand, Yale University Press has created a book that readers can afford to buy for their own libraries, even if they have already spent the majority of their last paycheck on other books.

Highly recommended for bibliophiles everywhere, especially if they read it at night.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 26, 2019
hey, what did you guys do on your friday night? get drunk? get laid? spend a quiet evening with friends? see a fillum??

me? oh, i just sat at home, nursing a sore back with painkillers, and decided to let my thoughts about cloud atlas percolate a little before writing a review for it, and decided to play a little booknerd game with myself. as part of my new year's resolution to finally get around to reviewing all the books on my "favorites" shelf, i scrolled through all of 'em until i came to the first "naked" one.

and here we are.

sad, right?


this book is a must-have for booknerds. along with that nicholas basbanes book, it will get you well on your way to having the best book collection about books. like the one i have.

manguel approaches the concept of the library from all angles: the personal library, the library as institution, the architecture of the library, libraries lost to burning or time, "imaginary" libraries. and all told in this wonderfully anecdotal way that feels so familiar to anyone who appreciates books-as-objects.

i wrote a really long review of this earlier and accidentally deleted it (i blame the painkillers, truly) so i am going to let this book speak for itself.

-we dream of a library of literature created by everyone and belonging to no one, a library that is immortal and will mysteriously lend order to the universe, and yet we know that every orderly choice, every catalogued realm of the imagination, sets up a tyrannical hierarchy of exclusion. every library is exclusionary, since its selection, however vast, leaves outside its walls endless shelves of writing that, for reasons of taste, knowledge, space, and time, have not been included. every library conjures up its own dark ghost. every ordering sets up, in its wake, a shadow library of absences.

-i have no feeling of guilt regarding the books i have not read and perhaps will never read; i know that my books have unlimited patience. they will wait for me till the end of my days

-yet one fearful characteristic of the physical world tempers any optimism that a reader may feel in any ordered library: the constraints of space. it has always been my experience that, whatever groupings i choose for my books, the space in which i plan to lodge them necessarily reshapes my choice and, more important, in no time proves too small for them and forces me to change my arrangement. in a library, no empty shelf remains empty for long. like nature, libraries abhor a vacuum, and the problem of space is inherent in the very nature of any collection of books. this is the paradox presented by every general library: that if, to a lesser or greater extent, it intends to accumulate and preserve as comprehensive as possible a record of the world, then ultimately its task must be redundant, since it can only be satisfied when the library's borders coincide with those of the world itself.
in my adolescence, i remember watching with a kind of fascinated horror, how night after night the shelves on the wall of my room would fill up, apparently on their own, until no promissory nooks were left. new books, lying flat as in the earliest codex libraries, would begin to pile up one on top of the other. old books, occupying their measured place during the day, would double and quadruple in volume and keep any newcomers at bay. all around me - on the floor, in the corners, under the bed, on my desk - columns of books would slowly rise and transform the space into a saprophyte forest, its sprouting trunks threatening to crowd me out.
later, in my home in toronto, i put up bookshelves just about everywhere - in bedrooms and kitchen, corridors and bathroom. even the covered porch had its shelves, so that my children complained that they felt they required a library card to enter their own home

i was going to type out the rest of that paragraph, but it was so peppered with diacritical marks that my un-computer-savvy self balked. but know that it is adorable. and this gives you incentive to seek it out for yourself.

this book needs to be read.
read it.

i am going to, again.

but now i am going to run away before i accidentally delete this one, too. new year's resolution - i am on my way to you!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,448 followers
April 28, 2023
3, 5 *.

Lectura poate deveni, uneori, o experiență totală. Cartea ca senzație fizică:

„Trebuie să permit trezirea celorlalte simțuri - trebuie să văd și să ating paginile, trebuie să aud pocnetul și fîșîitul hîrtiei și pîrîitul înfricoșat al cotorului, trebuie să inspir mirosul rafturilor de lemn, parfumul stătut al legăturilor de piele, aroma acrișoară a carnețelelor mele îngălbenite” (pp.22-23).

O idee care vine din Borges: „Cărțile se schimbă în funcție de ordinea în care sînt citite. Don Quijote, citit după Kim, și Don Quijote, citit după Aventurile lui Huckleberry Finn, sînt două cărți diferite, nuanțele amîndurora variind în funcție de călătoriile, prieteniile și aventurile pe care le-a experimentat cititorul. Fiecare dintre aceste volume caleidoscopice se află într-o permanentă schimbare; fiecare nouă lectură le asociază o nouă perspectivă, un alt șablon” (p.175).

O carte necitită e un obiect neînsuflețit. Cititorii o aduc la viață: „Fiecare cititor încearcă să asigure o fărîmă de nemurire unei anumite cărţi. Din acest punct de vedere, cititul este un ritual al renașterii”.

O anecdotă biblică despre suspiciunea maladivă a înțelepților. Într-o carte se povestește că regele Solomon a folosit o lupă pentru a vedea dacă regina din Saba avea picioare păroase (p.225).

Rezumatul unui poem: „În balada lui Gustav Schwab Der Ritter und der Bodensee, un cavaler trece în galop peste gheața ce acoperă lacul Constance și, dîndu-și seama ce a făcut, moare de frică pe celălalt mal”.

În rest, o mulțime de informații interesante, prezentate, hélas, în mare grabă...
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,105 followers
May 18, 2014

Dreaming The Perfect LIBRARY

The Quest & The Question

The starting point, Manguel says is a question. Few today can doubt that the main features of our universe are its dearth of meaning and lack of discernible purpose.

And yet, with bewildering optimism, we continue to assemble whatever scraps of information we can gather in scrolls and books and computer chips, on shelf after library shelf, whether material, virtual or otherwise, pathetically intent on lending the world a semblance of sense and order, while knowing perfectly well that, however much we’d like to believe the contrary, our pursuits are sadly doomed to failure.

Why then do we do it? Admitting from the start that the question would most likely remain unanswered, Manguel embarks on it for its own sake. This book is the story of that quest, “an account of my astonishment”, as Manguel says — and it is an astonishing journey for the readers as well.

“Surely we should find it both touching and inspiriting,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson over a century ago, “that in a field from which success is banished, our race should not cease to labour.”

Dreaming The Perfect LIBRARY

THE LIBRARY is a lot of things. And since it is quixotic by definition, this reader will now follow a future dream Library as Manguel traces his past, real libraries.

THE LIBRARY AS MYTH — It should be capable of eliciting in this reader the loftiest of all possible sensations, the sense of the sublime.

Manguel talks of the two great information-gathering projects of Mankind: The Library of Alexandria and The Tower of Babel. These two tower over the rest of the book, constantly reminding the reader and the writer about the magnificent and utile quest that mankind loves to keep re-embraking on.

THE LIBRARY AS ORDER — can a library ever have any meaningful order?

Subjects upon subjects, each of these subjects will require a classification within its classification. At a certain point in the ordering, out of fatigue, boredom or frustration, this geometrical progression might stop. But the possibility of continuing it is always there. There are no final categories in a library.

For this reader, the only consolation is that a private Library, at best, unlike a public one, presents the minor release of allowing a whimsical and highly personal classification. That is enough.

THE LIBRARY AS SPACE — Space is never enough a books never stop coming in

Ultimately, the number of books always exceeds the space they are granted. This reader wishes for a Library designed on The Brain, using folds and infolds to enfold a million books.

In the second chapter of Sylvie and Bruno, Lewis Carroll dreamt up the following solution: “If we could only apply that Rule to books! You know, in finding the Least Common Multiple, we strike out a quantity wherever it occurs, except in the term where it is raised to its highest power. So we should have to erase every recorded thought, except in the sentence where it is expressed with the greatest intensity.” 

His companion objects: “Some books would be reduced to blank paper, I’m afraid!” “They would,” the narrator admits. “Most libraries would be terribly diminished in bulk. But just think what they would gain in quality!”

THE LIBRARY AS POWER — The invested power of the written word, thrills this reader. Empires can’t stop building libraries and people cannot stop authoring memoirs. They are the only real sources of lasting power. The Library left behind and the books written, they shall define this reader’s legacy.

THE LIBRARY AS SHADOW —  If every library is in some sense a reflection of its readers, it is also an image of that which we are not, and cannot be.

Every library is a shadow, by definition the result of choice, and necessarily limited in its scope. And every choice excludes another, the choice not made. The act of reading parallels endlessly the act of censorship.

This reader imagines a Library where the censorship is total and the reader is a dictator, a benevolent one.

(This chapter includes a sad tour of The History of Censorship.)

THE LIBRARY AS SHAPE — “Every librarian is, up to a certain point, an architect,” observed Michel Melot, director of the Centre Pompidou Library in Paris. “He builds up his collection as an ensemble through which the reader must find a path, discover his own self, and live.”

This reader has already said that his Library will be modeled on The Brain.

THE LIBRARY AS CHANCE — A library is not only a place of both order and chaos; it is also the realm of chance. Left unattended, books cluster around what Henry James called a “general intention” that often escapes readers: “the string the pearls were strung on, the buried treasure, the figure in the carpet.” Isaac Asimov, anyone?

This reader imagines a Library where the books are left to cluster by chance and then picked up cluster-by-cluster and put back with their intellectual soul-mates.

THE LIBRARY AS WORKSHOP — The place where you read, and the place where you work. A history of the ‘study’.

This reader imagines a cozy nook, nudged within the Library, form where the grandeur is glimpsed but not enough for intimidation. At reach, still far enough away.

In 1929, Virginia Woolf published her now famous lectures on “Women and Fiction” under the title A Room of One’s Own, and there she defined forever our need for a private space for reading and writing: “The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace.” And she added, “Not a wheel must grate, not a light glimmer. The curtains must be close drawn.” As if it were night.

A study lends its owner, its privileged reader, what Seneca called euthymia, a Greek word which Seneca explained means “well-being of the soul,” and which he translated as “tranquillitas.” Every study ultimately aspires to euthymia.

Euthymia, memory without distraction, the intimacy of a reading time — This reader can hardly imagine a more perfect Paradise.

THE LIBRARY AS MIND What makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of the titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice.

This reader too will generally know the position of any book by recalling the Library’s layout.

The remembered order will follow the patterns of my mind, the shape and division of the Library ordered just so by me — and the Library will in turn reflect the configuration of my mind.

THE LIBRARY AS ISLAND — The Library, each book in it will be a newly discovered island.

To be the first to enter Circe’s cave, the first to hear Ulysses call himself Nobody, is every reader’s secret wish, granted over and over, generation after generation, to those who open the Odyssey for the first time.

This reader accepts that Libraries are not, never will be, used by everyone. Even in the most fantastically educated and cultured cities, the number of those for whom reading books is of the essence has always been very small.

What varies is not the proportions of these two groups of humanity, but the way in which different societies regard the book and the art of reading. And here the distinction between the book enthroned and the book read comes again into play. This reader’s Library will have no books enthroned, but all arrayed to be read.

THE LIBRARY AS SURVIVAL — On the destruction of books, by burning, drowning and other means. And On Survival

This reader likes to envisage his Library as a magnificent ark that will sail across the ocean of forgetfulness that embraces humanity.

THE LIBRARY AS OBLIVION — Oblivion through enforced illiteracy; Lost books, lost libraries; Displaced

This reader rejects this possibility.

THE LIBRARY AS IMAGINATION — The collecting of imaginary books is an ancient occupation.

This reader is sure that his Library will have as many imaginary books as real ones.

THE LIBRARY AS IDENTITY — Library can be more than a reflection of just personal identity.

In a similar fashion, the identity of a society, or a national identity, can be mirrored by a library, by an assembly of titles that, practically and symbolically, serves as our collective definition.

This reader’s Library should be a pride for the community and beyond.

THE LIBRARY AS HOME — A library can be as nourishing as a loving home.

For this reader, his Library is his umbilicus mundi, the navel of his world, the landscape that feeds his imagination, if not his body.

The splendidly cosmopolitan Library of this reader will, in turn, also ensure that the whole world is present right there. He will be at home in his Library and it will also be his World-at-Home

To be One With The LIBRARY

 The conceit that what we can know of reality is an imagination made of language—all this finds its material manifestation in that self-portrait we call a library. And our love for it, and our lust to see more of it, and our pride in its accomplishments as we wander through shelves full of books that promise more and more delights, are among our happiest, most moving proofs of possessing, in spite of all the miseries and sorrows of this life, a more intimate, consolatory, perhaps redeeming faith in a method behind the madness than any jealous deity could wish upon us.

Dreaming of the Perfect Library can be therapeutic. Try it.
Profile Image for Forrest.
Author 43 books740 followers
July 4, 2015
I once dreamt an entire novel. It was brilliant - a mystery replete with private eyes, conniving crooks, and a plot line convoluted by betrayals and double-agentry galore. It was vivid. I woke up wondering where I was, which almost never happens, groggy and disoriented. It was difficult to gauge my place in reality. This dream had really enveloped my mind. I got out of bed and looked for a notebook so that I could take notes, but as I did so, the memory of the dream collapsed in on itself like a black hole. I tried to write some notes down, but it was gone. Gone. It was absolutely brilliant, and I'll never see it again.

This book is like that. A dream for book lovers, lovers of libraries. Upon finishing, you will remember that it was brilliant, that it was all-engrossing, that you lived in it, you will have faint wisps of memories of pure genius and some of the most beautiful, languorous writing you have ever read, the sparks generated by the book will linger in your mind like latent spots phosphorescing on your eyes after seeing fireworks in the dark.

Thankfully, this dreamscape is subject to recall, since it is all written down. It is, in this way, like a library itself. Re-opening it is a resurrection of ideas - an intellectual miracle. I, for one, will worship at that altar. And this, from Manguel, will be my credo:

It is likely that libraries will carry on and survive, as long as we persist in lending words to the world that surrounds us, and storing them for future readers. So much has been named, so much will continue to be named, that in spite of our foolishness we will not give up this small miracle that allows the ghost of an understanding. Books may not change our suffering, books may not protect us from evil, books may not tell us what is good or what is beautiful, and they will certainly not shield us from the common fate of the grave. But books grant us myriad possibilities: the possibility of change, the possibility of illumination. It may be that there is no book, however well written, that can remove an ounce of pain from the tragedy of Iraq or Rwanda, but it may also be that there is no book, however foully written, that does not allow an epiphany for its destined reader. Robinson Crusoe explains, "It may not be amiss for all people who shall meet my story to make this just observation from it, viz., how frequently in the course of our lives, the evil which in itself we seek most to shun, and which, when we are fallen into it, is the most dreadful to us, is oftentimes the very same means or door of our deliverance, by which alone we can be raised again." This, of course, is not Crusoe speaking, but Defoe - the reader of so many books.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,530 reviews978 followers
January 2, 2015
This is the best book to finish the year with.
I have read many great novels this year, but of all of them this last one has become a true friend, one I hope will remain by my bedside, to comfort and inspire me when darkness rules outside my shelter.

Review to follow. Until then, here's a few of the many quotes I saved :

But at night, when the library lamps are lit, the outside world disappears and nothing but this space of books remains in existence. To someone standing outside, in the garden, the library at night appears like a vast vessel of some sort, like that strange Chinese villa that, in 1888, the capricious Empress Cixi caused to be built in the shape of a ship marooned in a garden lake of her Summer Palace. In the dark, with the windows lit and the rows of books glittering, the library is a closed space, a universe of self-serving rules that pretend to replace or translate those of the shapeless universe beyond.


Immensely generous, my books make no demands on me but offer all kind of illuminations.


My books hold between their covers every story I've ever known and still remember, or have now forgotten, or may one day read; they fill the space around me with ancient and new voices. No doubt these stories exist on the page equally during the day but, perhaps because of nighttime's acquaintance with phantom appearances and telltale dreams, they become more vividly present after the sun has set.

Profile Image for Lynne King.
494 reviews676 followers
March 23, 2016
The library in which I have at long last collected my books began life as a barn sometime in the fifteen century, perched on a small hill south of the Loire. Here, in the last years before the Christian era, the Romans erected a temple to Dionysus to honour the god of this wine-producing area; twelve centuries later, a Christian church replaced the god of drunken ecstasy with the god who turned his blood into wine… .

What a splendid beginning to a book about libraries. But Alberto Mangruel now he’s a true bibliophile. Imagine having his own library designed for him and in the Loire, one of the most beautiful parts of France. There’s such a serenity about the area.

I have a fascination with libraries: be they private libraries or those of friends. I get a sense of anticipation as soon as I see the numerous shelves full of books. The problem always arises – which direction to take? And which books do I want to browse through?

I love books but I would not consider myself a bibliophile in the true sense of the word. I lean more towards addiction. I take after my father in this respect. We used to browse through the second-hand book shops in Charing Cross Road from the time I was in my teens and more or less up until his death, depending whether I was in the country or not at the time.

If I see a book I like, personally I prefer second hand hardbacks as they all have a history, I’ll automatically buy it. Nevertheless, I have made huge mistakes in the past in this regard as some books have not turned out as I imagined they would.

Before reading this book though I had to systematically go through all the images. I was sad to see that they were all black and white as I’m a visual person and love to see colour. It seems to add something to the fabric be it either a painting, photo, brochure, whatever. But then that’s my own personal choice.

There’s a wonderful photograph of Charles Dickens in his library in Gad’s Hill. He’s sitting at his desk, bookshelves surrounding him and contemplating. Perhaps another book?

A contemporary cartoon depicts a book-burning in Nazi Germany.

An engraving copied from a no longer extant Roman bas-relief, depicting the methods for storing scrolls.

However, seeing the images of public libraries, admittedly somewhat imposing, of for example, The King’s Library in Buckingham House in London, The Laurentian Library designed by Michaelangelo, the book-shaped towers of the Bibliothèque de France…was a true delight for me. Such different styles of architecture.

But my favourite photo has to be that of Jorge Luis Borges at his desk in the Buenos Aires National Library.

Nevertheless, out of all the libraries portrayed in this marvellous book, it is the ancient library and latterly the modern library of Alexandria that fascinated me. Originating at the time of the Ptolemaic kings who set up a learning centre there at the end of the third century BC and eventually finally burning down.

There appear to be various interpretations of the burning of the library but the following seems to be the most likely:

The first person blamed for the destruction of the Library is none other than Julius Caesar himself. In 48 BC, Caesar was pursuing Pompey into Egypt when he was suddenly cut off by an Egyptian fleet at Alexandria. Greatly outnumbered and in enemy territory, Caesar ordered the ships in the harbor to be set on fire. The fire spread and destroyed the Egyptian fleet. Unfortunately, it also burned down part of the city - the area where the great Library stood. Caesar wrote of starting the fire in the harbour but neglected to mention the burning of the Library.

As for the new library of Alexandria, talks began in the 70s to build it and it finally reopened in October 2002.

An international design competition chose the Norwegian firm Snohetta to build the library. The building—in the shape of a massive disc inclined toward the Mediterranean—evokes the image of the Egyptian sun illuminating the world.

I was in Aswan on holiday in 1991 awaiting a flight to Cairo. We were all sitting on the plane and in the distance several limousines could be seen heading towards the plane. A red carpet was rolled out and President Mubarak and Queen Noor walked to what I guess, must have been the first class section in the plane. People began talking excitedly and it transpired that they were heading to Alexandra for discussions on the new library. It was a wonderful sight to see the red carpet like that.

As an aside, I was delighted to read though that Mangruel continued to have a problem with the dust in his library. I seem to dust books all the time.

I cannot go into detail about all the excellent stories, books and individuals contained herein but this is certainly one of those books to be reread and many times too.

Yes a library is indeed a wonderful place to read at night…
Profile Image for Hameed Younis.
Author 3 books401 followers
February 1, 2018
الكتاب مضر للجيب بصورة رهيبة، فما ان تقرأه حتى تصاب بوسواس شرائي مبالغ به لجميع الكتب الموجودة في العالم
لذا اقتضى التنويه
Profile Image for فهد الفهد.
Author 1 book4,836 followers
February 12, 2017
المكتبة في الليل

لم أفهم حتى الآن كيف يمكن للكتٌاب الكتابة عن كل شيء، ثم لا يكتبون عن الكتب ذاتها، عن ما ينتجونه، عن ما يربطنا بهم حقاً، لكل مؤلف قصة مع الكتب، كيف يقرؤها ! وكيف يكتبها ! ولكنهم للأسف قليلاً ما يكتبون عن هذا، يتركون هذه المهمة لمن سيكتبون سيرتهم فيما بعد عندما يشيخون، أو ربما بعدما يموتون.

المكتبة كذلك تلقى ذات الإهمال، نادراً ما نقرأ عنها، كأنما نبت كل هؤلاء المؤلفين بلا كتب، كأنما ولدت في أفواههم الكلمات، ولم يرضعوها منذ الصغر من خلال عشرات وربما مئات الكتب، ولكن حظنا كقراء عرب تغير هذا العام، مع نشر كتابين يتناولان المكتبات والكتب، الأول هو هذا الكتاب ذو العنوان المغري لألبرتو مانغويل، والثاني هو كتاب هنري ميلر (الكتب في حياتي) – الذي أعكف على قراءته هذه الأيام -.

ورغم الترجمة الرديئة، ورغم التشتت الذي نعرفه عن مانغويل إلا أنني أحببت الكتاب لأنه ببساطة يلمس كل من يمتلك مكتبة غير ديكورية، مكتبة بنيت على مدى سنوات، رتبت بمنطق معين، قرأت وقلبت كتبها بشغف، إنها الأشياء الصغيرة التي نمارسها في ظلال آلاف الكتب الجاثمة، ثم نراها منعكسة في كتاب، لتقول لنا إننا لسنا وحدنا في هذا الهوس، وأنه هناك أحد ما في العالم توقف ليكتب كل هذه الأفكار الجائلة في أذهاننا.

هكذا نمضي في جولة جميلة، تأخذنا من أبسط الأشياء، مثل الفرق بين الكتب التي توضع على الرفوف العليا، والكتب التي توضع على الرفوف الدنيا، ولصقة السعر التي تثير غيظ كل محب للكتب، وخاصة عندما توضع بإهمال على الغلاف الخلفي لتحجب جزءً من نبذة الكتاب، وكذا كيف يفرض المكان قوانينه على ترتيب المكتبة، فتضطر إلى دمج وتغيير الترتيب فقط لتحصل على شيء من الرضا والمنطق، نمضي بعد هذا إلى أشهر المكتبات في التاريخ مثل مكتبة آشور بانيبال، ومكتبة الإسكندرية ومصيرها الحزين، ومكتبات نتعرف عليها لأول مرة مثل مكتبة فاربورغ المرتبة بطريقة مميزة أذهلت الفيلسوف كاسيرر عندما زارها لدرجة أنه قال "سوف لن أعود إلى هنا ثانية أبداً، إذا رجعت إلى هذه المتاهة، سأنتهي إلى الضياع".

قرأت هذا الكتاب الكترونياً، ولكني حصلت على النسخة الورقية كهدية من الصديق عبدالله الذي تشرفت بلقائه للمرة الأولى في معرض الرياض للكتاب، هكذا يمنح مكتبي جميل كتاباً عن المكتبات، لأنه عندما تغرق المكتبة في الليل، تبقى الجذوة التي تشعلها في داخلنا متأججة.

المكتبة في الليل:
١٤/ الرفوف العليا والدنيا في المكتبة
١٨/ كتبي تضم بين أغلفتها كل قصة سمعتها وما زلت أتذكرها، أو هي الآن منسية، أو ربما ستقرأ ذات يوم.
٢١/ لصقة السعر، الفرق بين المتعلم والقارئ
٢٣/ مكتبة الاسكندرية
٢٨/ المكتبة التي كان يراد لها أن تكون حافظة لذاكرة العالم لم تكن قادرة على حفظ ذاكرتها هي نفسها.
٣٣/ دمار مكتبة الاسكندرية
٣٧/ لا أتذكر وقتاً لم أكن فيه محاطاً بكتبي
٥٦/ تصنيف ديوي
٦٤/ المكان يفرض الترتيب
٦٦/ القضاء على الأدب من الدرجة الثانية
٦٨/ انقاذ الكتب من الرمي
٨٠/ مكتبة كارنيجي
٩٣/ كل مكتبة إقصائية
٩٨/ منع وحرق الكتب عبر التاريخ
١٥٩/ مكتبة فاربورغ
٢٠٦/ معالجة الكتب
٢٣٦/ مكتبة هتلر
Profile Image for ايمان.
237 reviews1,933 followers
April 11, 2013
بعد قراءة هذا الكتاب فكل منا سيرى مكتبته بشكل مغاير و سيجري بينه و بين كتبه حوار من نوع آخر فيه من الشكر الكثير و من الاستفسارات الكثير عن كل ذكرى رافقت كتابا ما و عن التفاصيل الصغيرة التي يضمها نفَس كل كتاب...
كتاب جعل منه البرتو مانغيل موسوعة مصغرة لأهم المكاتب في العالم لكن بشكل شخصي يرتبط بالأفراد ممتع الحديث .عن الكتب عن الورق في ظل التكنولوجيا الحديثة .
Profile Image for Greg.
1,117 reviews1,876 followers
April 27, 2009
For anyone who loves books and reading this book will probably be delightful. I'm pretty sure that except for the intricacies of cataloging books (and how to be king of the file clerks in a company, something I'm going to forget I ever had the misfortune to learn as soon as the class is over, so we'll ignore that) everything I've learned in my 3 semesters of Library School is in this book, and generally presented in a much more enjoyable manner than any of the things I've been required to read so far. Unfortunately at the end of the book isn't an MLS, and this book cost me twenty bucks as opposed to whatever school is going to end up costing, but oh well. All of the great stuff about books and libraries without all of the bullshit or the inane questions and concerns of ones peers.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
October 21, 2016
"... não busco nenhuma revelação, pois tudo o que me é dito é necessariamente limitado pelo que sou capaz de ouvir e entender. Nem busco conhecimento além daquele que, de algum modo secreto, já possuo. Nem iluminação, a que não posso razoavelmente aspirar. Nem experiência, pois, em última instância, só posso ter consciência do que já está dentro de mim. Então que procuro eu no fim da história da minha biblioteca?
Consolação, talvez. Talvez consolação."

Sempre que ouço falar de um livro sobre livros, bibliotecas, leitores, escritores corro à livraria e começo a lê-lo de imediato. Tirando os de Vila-Matas, este é o que mais prazer me deu ler sobre este tema.
Enquanto organiza a sua biblioteca, de mais de quarenta mil livros (que inveja!), Manguel conta-nos "Mil e Uma" histórias reais deste Mundo Maravilhoso.
Nunca me aborreceu; aprendi muito e algumas vezes fiquei de lágrimas nos olhos.

Dos quinze capítulos em que Manguel organizou o ensaio, partilho alguns excertos:

A Biblioteca como Mito
"Os meus livros guardam entre as suas capas todas as histórias que já conheci e ainda recordo, ou que entretanto esqueci ou poderei um dia ler; preenchem o espaço que me envolve com vozes antigas e novas."

A Biblioteca como Ordem
"Uma biblioteca é uma entidade em eterno crescimento; multiplica-se aparentemente sozinha, reproduz-se por via da compra, do roubo, do empréstimo, de ofertas, pela sugestão de lacunas a que se chega por associação, pela sua exigência de algum tipo de conclusão."

A Biblioteca como Espaço
"Há livros antigos que conhecemos mas não possuímos e que se cruzam no nosso caminho e se convidam. E livros novos que tentam seduzir-nos diariamente com títulos tentadores e capas irresistíveis."

A Biblioteca como Poder
"O poder dos leitores não reside na sua capacidade de reunir informação, na sua aptidão para ordenar e catalogar, mas no seu dom de interpretar, associar e transformar o que lêem."

A Biblioteca como Sombra
"Sonhamos com uma biblioteca de literatura que seja criada por todos e não pertença a ninguém, uma biblioteca que seja imortal e, misteriosamente dê ordem ao universo."

A Biblioteca como Forma
"O espaço onde guardamos os nossos livros muda, por sua vez, a nossa relação com eles. Não lemos livros da mesma maneira sentados no meio de um círculo ou de um quadrado, numa sala com tecto baixo ou numa sala com vigas altas."

A Biblioteca como Acaso
"Uma biblioteca não é só um lugar de ordem e caos; também é o reino do acaso. Mesmo depois de lhes atribuirmos uma prateleira e um número, os livros retêm uma mobilidade própria. Entregues a si mesmos, formam grupos inesperados; seguem regras secretas de semelhança, genealogias que nenhuma crónica regista, interesses e temas comuns."

A Biblioteca como Oficina
"Tendo em conta que [Jorge Luis] Borges dizia que o universo era um livro e que imaginava o paraíso «sob a forma de uma biblioteca», quem o visitava esperava uma casa copiosamente forrada a livros (...) O que se descobria era, pelo contrário, aquele apartamento modesto onde os livros ocupavam um lugar discreto e ordeiro.
Aquelas poucas estantes eram, apesar de tudo, o orgulho de Borges. «Vou-te contar um segredo», explicou-me certo dia. «Gosto de fingir que não sou cego e cobiço livros como um homem capaz de ver.»

A Biblioteca como Mente
"O que torna uma biblioteca o reflexo do seu proprietário não é simplesmente a escolha dos títulos, mas a trama de associações implícitas nessa escolha. A nossa experiência faz-se de experiências, a nossa memória de outras memórias. Os nossos livros decorrem de outros livros, que os mudam ou enriquecem, que lhes atribuem uma cronologia diferente da dos dicionários literários."

A Biblioteca como Ilha
"...seleccionamos este ou aquele volume por nenhuma razão discernível: por causa de uma capa, de um título, de um nome, por algo que alguém disse ou não disse, por causa de um palpite, de um capricho, de um erro, por pensarmos que encontraremos no livro uma história ou uma personagem ou um pormenor especial, por acreditarmos que foi escrito para nós, por acreditarmos que foi escrito para toda a gente menos nós e queremos saber porque é que fomos excluídos, por querermos apreender, ou rir, ou entregar-nos ao esquecimento."

A Biblioteca como Sobrevivência
"No campo de concentração de Bergen-Belsen, os prisioneiros circulavam entre si um exemplar d'A Montanha Mágica de Thomas Mann. Um rapaz lembrava-se do período que lhe era permitido ter o livro nas mãos como «um dos pontos altos do dia, quando alguém mo passava. Ia para um canto para estar em paz e, depois, tinha uma hora para o ler.» Outra vítima polaca muito jovem, recordando os dias de medo e desalento, teve a dizer o seguinte: «O livro era o meu melhor amigo, nunca me traía, reconfortava-me quando eu desesperava, dizia-me que eu não estava sozinho.»"

A Biblioteca como Esquecimento
"Em Abril de 2003, o exército anglo-americano ficou a assistir impavidamente enquanto os Arquivos Nacionais, o Museu Arqueológico e a Biblioteca Nacional de Bagdade eram saqueados e pilhados. Em poucas horas, muita da mais antiga história da humanidade registada se perdeu no esquecimento."

A Biblioteca como Imaginação
"Na luz, lemos as invenções de outros; na escuridão, inventamos as nossas próprias histórias. Muitas vezes me sentei com amigos e descrevemos livros que nunca foram escritos. Atulhámos bibliotecas de histórias que nunca nos sentimos compelidos a passar para o papel. «Imaginar o enredo de um romance é uma tarefa feliz», disse certa vez Borges. «Escrevê-lo realmente é um exagero.»"

A Biblioteca como Identidade
"Podemos imaginar os livros que gostaríamos de ler, mesmo se eles ainda não tiverem sido escritos, e podemos imaginar bibliotecas cheias de livros que gostaríamos de possuir, mesmo que eles estejam muito além do nosso alcance, porque nos dá prazer conjurar uma biblioteca que reflecte os nossos interesses e os nossos pontos fracos — uma biblioteca que, na sua variedade e complexidade, reflecte inteiramente o leitor que somos."

A Biblioteca como Lar
"Ter como lar um único local ou ter como lar o mundo são ambas noções que podem ser experienciadas como negativas. O conde Drácula só confia na sua biblioteca e lista desdenhosamente várias nacionalidades que não possui. O monstro de Frankenstein, como não tem uma biblioteca que seja sua, procura o seu reflexo em todos os livros e, contudo, nunca consegue reconhecer a sua história nessas páginas «estrangeiras»."
Profile Image for Lyn Elliott.
701 reviews187 followers
August 10, 2017
Alberto Manguel has created a life space for himself in which he can read, muse on reading and books and write about them to share his musings. Libraries are complex beings. Most of us have our own collections of books, but would we call them libraries? Manguel can, he has built a large room specifically to house his collection, and where he likes to read at night, in a carefully contrived pool of light, surrounded by shadows and books.
But if you're like us, we have books in unmatched shelves in almost every room of the house and it's a bit harder to think of that as a library. I tend to think of libraries as mostly public libraries of different sorts, run by organisations who can employ librarians to manage the collections and help borrowers find what they want, but of course they are much more than that.

Manguel explores ideas about reading, spaces, record keeping, knowledge, memory, identity and imagination; about the thinking that underlies choice of what is included or excluded, and how the collection is managed. It's fascinating reading if you're interested in these things.

From here on are the notes I made after reading it.

The first chapter is about his own library.
The Library of Alexandria – divided into thematic areas by categories devised by its librarians, each insistent on one aspect of the world’s variety – here was a place where memory was to be kept alive. But because the library was destroyed by fire, we neither know what it looked like or what was in it.

The library as Order:
How will we order our books. Alphabetically? By subject? By shelf size? By book size? Samuel Pepys in the seventeenth century build little high heels for his smaller volumes so the tops all followed a neat logical line. (p37) By colour, shape, language, country or continent, date they were added to the collection, how often we use them? Often a mix of all . One of my favourites ( not mentioned here) is the idea that you might order your book by authors who might like to sit next to each other at dinner to talk.

I know people who shelve books according to their height within a category, because they think it looks nicer. What about books by the same author? I ask. A weak smile is the response.

Libraries impose a certain vision of the world through its categories and its order (47).

The shape of a library shapes how you keep your books. No shelf is empty for long. Books move around, as space available changes. (66) And then there's the pile by the bed.

The Library as Power.
‘The power of readers lies not in their ability to gather information, in their ordering and cataloguing capability, but in their gift to interpret, associate and transform their reading.’ Eg Jewish and Muslim scholars transform their religious faith into an active power through reading, when ‘the experience rescued from the page and transformed again into experience, in the words reflected both in the outside world and in the reader’s own being.’ (91)

Leibnitz – a library’s value is determined by its contents, and the use readers make of them.
Ashurbanipal claimed to be proud of his talents both as a scribe and a reader, but Manguel says that what really mattered to him ‘was not the transformation of experience into learning, but the emblematic representation of the powerful qualities associated with books’….Under such rulers, libraries became not ‘temples to learning’, but ‘temples to a benefactor, founder or provider’ (95-96)

The Library as Shadow
Every orderly choice sets up categories of exclusion – absences. Keepers of libraries and collections are not neutral, nor are readers. All choices mean exclusions – paralleling censorship. (107-108), sometimes reflecting acts of censorship.

The Library as shape.
Manguel’s library is built to reflect the way in which he reads. (133)
‘Square spaces contain and dissect; circular spaces proclaim continuity. …A library of straight angles suggests division into parts or subjects, consistent with the medieval notion of a compartmentalized and hierarchical universe; a circular library more generously allows the reader to imagine that every last page is also the first’. 135-139. Gives examples of great library buildings, including that of Michelangelo at San Lorenzo in Florence for the Medici collection.

The Library as chance
Despite the best efforts of cataloguers and filers, books have a life of their own. ‘Left to their own devices, they assemble in unexpected formations; they follow secret rules of similarity, unchronicled genealogies. Common interests and themes. Left in unattended corners or on piles by our bedside, in cartons or on shelves, waiting to be sorted and catalogued on some future day many times postponed, the stories held by books cluster around what Henry James called a “general intention” that often escapes readers’…

The Library as Workshop
Begins with the differences between the large room in which he keeps most of his books and the small room where he does most of his work. In his study, as well as books he always needs at arms reach, he ‘requires certain talismans that have washed on to my desk over the years’. His study hold his identity (180).

The Library as Mind
His library reflects the configuration of his mind. (193)
‘what makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of the titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice. Our experience builds on experience, our memory on other memories.’ And books build on other books.
The Warburg Library followed Warburg’s conception of the universe, arranged according to the intricacies of his thought – a labyrinth of books and images.

The Library as Island
Daniel Defoe and Robinson Crusoe, the only book the Bible which dictated life.
Books for a desert island.
The Web – a space that belongs to all and precludes a sense of the past. All texts ‘are equal and alike in form, they become nothing but phantom text and photographic image’, (225).
All that counts is what is currently displayed – it is constantly in the present.

The library as survival
Each and every book holds the history of its survival. Books saved from destruction by the Nazis

Books and forgetting. A book, having been forgotten, can be rediscovered.
‘If reading is a craft that allows us to remember the common experience of humankind, it follows that totalitarian governments will try to suppress the memory held by the page. Under such circumstances, the reader’s struggle is against oblivion.’ 257

The Library as identity - our books reflect who we are; our interests and values and key segments of memory loops.
Profile Image for Paul Secor.
564 reviews53 followers
April 22, 2017
P. 72 - "To compensate for the deficient planning of the new main San Francisco Public Library, in which the architect had not allowed for a sufficiently large amount of shelving space, the administrators pulled hundreds of thousands (my italics) of books from the library's hold and sent them to a landfill. Since books were selected for destruction on the basis of the length of time they had sat unrequested, in order to save as many books as possible, heroic librarians crept into the stacks at night and stamped the threatened volumes with false withdrawal dates."

That passage reminds me of volunteering at our local library, and at one point being asked to cull mysteries that had sat unrequested for a couple of years. I requested permission (which was given) to save the lives of books by a few favorite authors. I was able to rescue those books, but if I hadn't been given permission to leave them on the shelves, I would have checked them out on my account. In the age of computers, there's no such thing as stamping a book with a false withdrawal date.

P. 74 - "As any reader knows, a printed page creates its own reading space, its own physical landscape in which the texture of the paper, the colour of the ink, the view of the whole ensemble acquire in the reader's hands specific meanings that lend tone and context to the words. (Columbia University's librarian Patricia Battin, a fierce advocate for the microfilming of books, disagreed with this notion. 'The value,' she wrote, 'in intellectual terms, of the proximity of the book to the user has never been satisfactorily established.' There speaks a dolt, someone utterly insensitive, in intellectual, or any other terms, to the experience of reading."

P. 88 - "What Flaubert's two clowns (Bouvard and Pécuchet) discovered is what we have always known but seldom believed: that the accumulation of knowledge isn't knowledge."

P. 131 - "Seneca mocked ostentatious readers who relied on (book lined-walls) to lend them intellectual prestige; he argued for possessing only a small number of books, not 'endless bookshelves for the ignorant to decorate their dining rooms.'"

A man after my own heart.

P. 232 - "As readers, we have gone from learning a precious craft whose secret was held by a jealous few, to taking for granted a skill that has become subordinate to principals of mindless financial profit or mechanical efficiency, a skill for which governments care almost nothing."

Albert Manguel begins The Library at Night by writing about his library, which he built (or, more likely, had built) to his specifications. After a few pages of this, he moves on to discussing a history of libraries, both public and private. The rest of the book is of this ilk. There's nothing wrong with that. I just would have preferred to have read descriptions and discussions of the books in his own library. For me, the personal and particular tends to trump (no pun intended) the public and general.
The Library at Night is a good book of its kind, but it won't find its way onto the shelves of my own library.
Profile Image for Ana.
652 reviews86 followers
January 4, 2019
O início foi lento, ao fim de 4-5 páginas, dava comigo a bocejar, e uma ou outra vez cheguei mesmo a adormecer… Mas a certa altura, para aí a partir da página 30 ou 40, alguma coisa aconteceu (ainda não percebi bem o quê, mas o mais provável é ter sido a minha disposição que mudou), e o livro foi-se tornando cada vez mais interessante. As últimas páginas, então, praticamente voaram. A Biblioteca à Noite, é uma homenagem aos livros e às bibliotecas, começando pela do próprio autor. Percorre a história das bibliotecas desde a antiguidade até ao presente. É um livro bonito, com muitas histórias interessantes, para ler com um caderno ou o computador à mão, para ir tomando notas acerca de livros e assuntos para explorar mais tarde.

Esta foi uma das (várias) histórias que li e gostei:

Em Ouadane conta-se a história de um pedinte que, no início do século XV, apareceu nas portas da cidade, esfaimado e esfarrapado. Foi levado para a mesquita, alimentado e vestido, mas ninguém consegiu fazê-lo revelar como se chamava nem onde nascera. O homem só parecia interessar-se por passar horas e horas entre os livros de Ouadane, numa leitura inteiramente silenciosa. Finalmente, após vários meses deste comportamento misterioso, o imã perdeu a paciência e disse ao pedinte. “Está escrito que quem mantém o saber para si mesmo não será recebido no Reino dos Céus. Cada leitor não é senão um capítulo na vida de um livro e, a menos que passe o seu conhecimento a outros, é como se condenasse o livro a ser soterrado vivo. Desejas tal destino par os livros que tão bem te serviram?”

Se quiserem saber o resto da história, vão ter de ler o livro ;)

Copiei aqui este pedaço porque a pergunta do imã, é uma que, de vez em quando, faço a mim mesma. Bem sei que já não estamos na época em que os livros eram objetos raros, copiados à mão e lidos por uma ínfima minoria. Nessa altura, podemos aceitar que quem tinha acesso a um tal tesouro tivesse realmente a obrigação moral de lhe dar uso e de o partilhar. Agora é tudo diferente. Ainda assim, às vezes dou comigo a pensar no que é que fica, realmente, de todos os livros que leio...
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,890 reviews1,417 followers
August 30, 2022
In my fool hardy youth, when my friends were dreaming of heroic deeds in the realms of engineering and law, finance and national politics, I dreamt of becoming a librarian.

I did not dream of being a librarian, but I have always felt safe there, even that time when I walked into the bottom of a concrete staircase and was nearly knocked unconscious. There's unfortunately something mercenary about me. I love used bookstores more. I also leer at the books of other people when I am in their homes.

Manguel spends excessive time with the physical aspects and functions of libraries. There are dabs of criticism, almost poetic but I wanted more. I want someone to capture the way I feel when approaching Powell's or The Strand.
Profile Image for Afaf Ammar.
889 reviews508 followers
November 26, 2019
"في الليل حين توقد مصابيح المكتبة، يختفي العالم الخارجي، ولا يبقى في الوجود سوى فضاء الكتب. في الليل، يوحي منظر المكتبة للشخص الواقف في الحديقة خارجًا، ما يشبه المركب الفسيح."
هكذا تبدو مكتبة ألبرتو مانغويل عاشق الكتب والمكتبات، للواقف في الحديقة تحت شجرتي الصوفورا، تحت سماء مرصعة بالنجوم، كتلك التي تبرق في عقل مانغويل، كتبه في مك��به، التي هي انعكاس لنجوم عقله، كالمنجّم ناظرًا إلى النجوم هكذا هو... منظر خيالي سحري، كالمركب الفسيح المضاء والسابح في فضاء الكون، ولن يصدق أحد كيف أبصرت النور لأول مرة في القرن الخامس عشر، تلك الحجرة التي أصبحت مكتبته.
مفتون بالكتب، لا تغمره متعة المغامرة إلا حين يغرق في بحر كتبه، ويفقد نفسه وسط أكداسها المكتظة. في صغره حين كان أصدقائه يحلمون بمآثر بطولية في حقول الهندسة والقانون، والمال والسياسة، كان حلمه أن يصبح أمين مكتبة!.
مفتون ببرج بابل في المكان وبمكتبة الإسكندرية في الزمان. أحاط نفسه بكتبه في عمر السابعة، وجمع في غرفته إسكندرية مصغرة.
طموحه، ورغبته المستحيلة في احتواء كل لغات بابل، وتوقه لتملك كل كتب الإسكندرية، في ظلهما انعكست مكتبته الصغيرة، كالنجمة على مرآة الكون.
لا يفضل الجلوس وسط كتبه والقراءة إلا بالليل، في الليل حيث الصمت المطلق، والهدوء، حين تشطر مثلثات الضوء التي يشكلها مصباح القراءة رفوف مكتبته إلى نصفين.
أو في الخارج في ظلمة الليل تحت شجرتي الصوفورا، وتحت النجوم، مع أصدقاء، يتحدثون حول كتب لم تُكتب أبدًا، وحكايات لن تُدون على الورق، قال :
"تحت شجرتيّ، أضفنا أنا وأصدقائي إلى فهرست مكتبة الإسكندرية رفوفًا كاملة ملأى بكتب رائعة، اختفت دون أثر ما أن حل الصباح. "
الآن يعيش وسط رفوف كتب في نمو مستمر، حتى بدت حدودها ضبابية، ومتماهية مع بيته نفسه، وكل كتاب من كتبه يحمل هويته الخاصة، قصة نجاته، وكأنه أفلت من المخاطر أو من يد قارئ بعيد ليروي له قصته.
"كل قارئ هو إما طوّاف يستريح وإما مسافر يعود."
هنا بين طيات الكتاب، نقرأ عن رحلة مانغويل المسافر في دهاليز التاريخ بين أروقة المكتبات، وبين رفوف الكتب، وحكايات عن المكتبات والكتب والكتّاب والقرّاء، وعن بورخيس...
رحلة مانغويل الطوّاف الذي تنتهي به الرحلة، التي لن تنتهي، في ملاذه المريح بين كتبه، في المكتبة في الليل حيث الهدوء في المكان المضاء تحت الظلام الذي يخيم خارجًا حيث شجرتي الصوفورا تحت النجوم.

Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,116 followers
September 2, 2015
Great book although not a lot of new things if you've read any history of libraries. I was reminded of a book that brought me to tears - A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern-Day Iraq - although Manguel also looks at positive events in book and library history. He also talks about building his own library.

The book is organized by topic - library at night, library as space, library as power - I found these topics to be more accessible than a typical history book that would start at the beginning. He intersperses historical accounts with philosophy and other writings, which I liked very much.

Right now I'm working on developing a reading workshop type class and will have required reading experiences for students to journal about. Some of them will come from this book so just for that I award him an additional star. I think if library school students are still taking History of the Book classes, they could use this as a textbook and throw away the actual textbook.
Profile Image for Hakan.
685 reviews474 followers
April 19, 2020
Böyle kırk ambar niteliğinde kitapları okumak ayrı bir keyif, özellikle yazan Manguel gibi birisi olursa. Farklı boyutlarıyla kütüphane kavramı, kütüphanelerin, kitapların tarihi üzerinde durmuş üstat. İlginç anekdotlarla, yararlı bilgilerle dolu. İleride yapabileceğiniz seyahatler için notlar da alabilirsiniz okurken. Bazı kısımları bende atlama isteği uyandırsa da genel olarak kitapları seven herkesin keyif alacağını düşündüğüm hoş bir eser.
Profile Image for Dema Jado.
80 reviews93 followers
March 6, 2018
بعض الكتب تتبادل أدوارها معنا، تقرؤنا بدلا من أن نقرأها نحن :)
هذه الكتب من الصعب التحدث عنها، تقف حائرا وعقلك يقلب أفكاره، لا تدري بماذا تعبر عما قرأته وعشته في رحلة القراءة.

لن أقول شيئا عن الكتاب سوى : إن كنت من الذين يحبون الثرثرة عن الكتب والمكتبات - وعادة لن تجد شخصا يتحمل أن يستمع إلى كل هذا الكم الهائل من الكلمات؛ لأنك تكون في قمة السعادة وعيونك تلمع كمن يتحدث عن محبوبته - .. ستجد ضالتك هنا D:


" أنا لا أبحث عن وحي من أي نوع، ولا أبحث عن معرفة أكثر من تلك التي بطريقة سرية، أملكها مسبقا، ولا عن تجربة، بما أنه يمكنني وحدي فقط أن أعي ما هو داخلي مسبقا. عن ماذا إذا، أنا أبحث في نهاية قصة مكتبتي؟
السلوان ربما. ربما السلوان..."
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,833 reviews44 followers
December 1, 2021
Nov 30, 1130am ~~ Review asap. I have to go play with my books a little bit first.

Nov 30, 930pm ~~ Reader beware: THIS BOOK IS DANGEROUS.

It may add dozens of titles to your reading lists. It may make you crazy with curiosity, forcing you to go discover more about the many people the author brings up.

But mostly it is dangerous because even while reading, you will want to go play with your own library. You may decide to shuffle titles around, plan new shelving systems, search out old friends, or merely sit and look at all of your treasures.

You also might become just a little jealous of the author and his library with 30,000 titles. I think I am more jealous of the space he has for his books than I am of his books themselves, come to think of it. Who wouldn't be?!

Manguel sorts his book into chapters which explore the many roles a library plays in life. From Myth to Workshop to Survival to Identity, each chapter entertains and educates, and reminds the reader that this author is also a reader, someone who truly understands the magic of books and the many reasons we all love them.

There are a great many pages of notes at the end, and a 'non-canonical' list of AM's favorite books. Once I looked up the exact meaning of non-canonical, I was curious about whether or not I might have read some of his favorites. Out of a list of 217 I was surprised to find 26 that I have read at some point during my 63 years. There were also plenty I had never heard of, but many others that I have at least seen mentioned.

Do I sense a new source for a personal challenge list? Oh, heck yeah!! Someday, I'm sure I will at least look to see how many of Manguel's favorites are available to me. After all, when an author creates an itch, you just have to scratch at least a little bit, right?

Wonderful book, and I am very glad to add it to my not-quite-30,000 volume library.

Profile Image for Nahed.E.
601 reviews1,541 followers
February 7, 2017

اللقاء الثالث مع البرتو مانغويل .. هذا المثقف العاشق للكتب مثلنا ..
مانغويل .. تبهرني دائما ثقافته العالية ومعلوماته الكثيرة ورحلاته المتنوعة .. واحسده كثيرا علي ما عاصره وشاهده وما صادفه في حياته من مشاهير تقابل معهم ودخل منازلهم وقرأ في مكتباتهم الخاصة ، وشاهدهم بعينيه يتجولون ويكتبون ويقراون .. وخاصة ما شاهده مع بورخيس ..
فما إحساسه وهو يجلس في مكتبة بورخيس الخاصة ؟
وما سيكون إحساسك إنت لو إنك مكانه .. تقلب بيديك في مكتبته وتجلس بجانبه وجها لوجه ؟
حقا، ماذا ستريد أكثر من ذلك ؟؟
أكثر ما أعجبني الثقافة العالية في العرض .. وكأنك تتجول معه حقا بين ارفف الكتب المنسية في الشوارع الضيقة تحت المطر وبين الزحام ..
اهناك أجمل من أن تسير وحدك تحت المطر الخفيف في شوارع قديمة علي النمط الإيطالي وتدخل الي مكتبة خشبية قديمة نسيها الزمن في مكانها وبقيت هناك في زقاق ضيق تنتظر عشاقها ؟؟
اهناك أجمل من كتاب قديم مع فنجان قهوة تحت المطر ؟؟
لا أظن ..
هذه هي سعادتي ..
مانغويل جعلني أشعر بهذا الإحساس ..
فلقد تخيلت معه ومع بورخيس أن الجنة علي الأرض هي مكتبة .. ولا اجمل من ذلك ..
من اجمل الفصول التي أعجبتني المكتبة والنسيان ..
فضلا عن الاقتباسات الرائعة ...
فقد معي نقطتين لبعض التفاصيل المملة قليلا ..
.. ولكن دون ذلك الكتاب مميز حقا
Profile Image for Yousra .
694 reviews1,261 followers
October 2, 2014
من حين لآخر أحب أن أبتعد عن عالم الروايات والقصص الخيالي وأبحث عن السحر في كتب أخرى ... وأركز على سحر المعرفة والإكتشاف ... وياله من سحر هذا الذي يحتويه هذا الكتاب ! عالم يحيا بداخل كل قاريء .... هذا الكتاب عن المكتبات والكتب عن الشغف بهما منذ قديم الأزل

الكتاب يتتبع تاريخ المكتبات وبالضرورة الكتب ... يتتبع الكوارث التي حلت ببعض المكتبات وكذلك الكتب

لن أقف عند تقسيم الكتاب ولن اتحدث عن كل الفصول ... فقط سأتحدث عن مشاعري وقت القراءة ... أنا زوجة وأم وقصتي مع العودة لشغفي القديم بالقراءة يعلما تقريبا كل أصدقائي هنا فقد كتبتها في قسم الكتابات وتظهر من حين لآخر في بعض المراجعات ... أهتم كثيرا ببناء مكتبة خاصة في منزلي وأتمنى أن يجدها أطفالي مثيرة لهم وان يجدوا في كتبها متعتهم كما وجدتها أمهم ... وفي هذا الشأن وددت أن يوضح الكاتب موقف ابنائه من القراءة بخاصة وأنه قد جاء على ذكرهم عندما وضح رد فعلهم وقولهم أنهم يحتاجون كارت مكتبة للتمكن من دخول بيتهم وقد انتشرت فيها الكتب

أعجبتني كذلك فكرة عناوين الكتب الوهمية والمكتبات الوهمية والتي كانت من بنات أفكار أحد الكتاب للسخرية من كتب بعينها في عصره، ولي من الأصدقاء على الفيسبوك من يقومون بشيء شبيه بذلك ... وتذكرت حينها رواية "مخطوطة ابن اسحاق" وهي عن كتاب عجيب ورغبتي الدفينة في أن يكون هناك حقيقة لا خيالا كتاب مثل هذه المخطوطة ... كذلك تلك الملاحظة الذكية عن هؤلاء الذين يرون كتبا في صورة فيحاولون قراءة عناوينها :) أنا من هؤلاء :))

أحزنتني فكرة أننا في مجموعنا كبشر لم ولن نقرأ أبدا كل ما كُتِبَ من كُتُبْ، فهناك بالفعل من المخابيل من دمروا مكتبات كاملة وأعدموا كتبا بعينها وكنت أعتقد ذلك حبكة من حبكات روايات الديستوبيا فقط .... دائما ما كنت أحزن على مكتبة الأسكندرية غير عالمة بأن غيرها قد طالته مصائر مروعة

لم أتخيل أن يحرق المنتصر في الحروب كتب عدوه !!! وساق الكاتب أمثلة كثيرة لعل أبرزها وأهمها ما فعله النازيون بكل ما نتج من كتب ألفها اليهود وما فعله في القراء منهم حتى مع الروايات الخيالية العالمية وإنني لأعتقد الحياد في الكاتب في هذا الخصوص وقلت في نفسي سيساعدني ذلك في تقبل فكرة رواية
The Book Theif
حينما اقرأها ولن أجدها بروباجاندا من التي اعتدناها منهم

أتذكر محاضرة "تنظيم دولي" وكان المحاضر هو د. شوقي السيد عبد العال والذي صار بعد تخرجي مساعد وزيرة القوى العاملة والهجرة ! هذه المنفرة الت�� كرهت لقائها بنا في إطار ورشة عمل لمنظمة العمل الألمانية ... كانت محاضرته تتناول الحرب على العراق ... استرجعت في ذاكرتي منظر المكتبات والجامعة والمتاحف المسلوبة والمنهوبة والمدمرة والكتب المبعثرة ... لا أتذكر سؤالهرحينها وإنما أتذكر جوابي عن خوف يلازمني من أطفال الشوارع ولكن ليس من الصغار منهم فهؤلاء أمرهم سهل ونرى بعضهم حول الجامعة ونساعدهم بل هؤلاء الذين أصبحوا في طور المراهقة والشباب هم من يخيفونني... استغرب الرجل فتابعت ... أحب أن نهتم بهم ونوفر لهم الرعاية لأن من هؤلاء قد يأتي المرتزقة والبلطجية فأين الدولة منهم ... لا أعلم لماذا استمر في مناقشتي ولكن سألني ��يف يساعدونهم؟؟ قلت له بكل براءة وصدق : بدلا من أن تبني السيدة الأولى المكتبات وتوفر طبعات الكتب في مشروع يحمل إسمها فلتمح الأمية أولا أمية هؤلاء قبل أصحاب الأعمال ... فلتحبب إليهم القراءة وتعرفهم بالتراث والتاريخ ... لأن من رأيناهم على شاشات تليفزيوناتنا نمتلك منهم الملايين بالنسبة لتعداد مصر وأتمنى ألا أري اليوم الذي يقتحم فيه متحف أو تسرق البنوك والمحال وتدمر المكتبات بغل وحقد من لا يفهم قيمتها ... بعد أن قلت ما قلت صمت الأستاذ وصمتت وخاف أصدقائي علي ولكن لله الحمد لم يطالني شيء جراء انتقادي للسيدة الأولى حرم الرئيس المخلوع

حزنت لما أصاب مكتبات العراق في الغزو الأمريكي وما أصاب مكتبات لبنان في الحرب الأهلية من قصف طال بعض المكتبات ومحاولات يائسة لترميم كتب قديمة ذات قيمة وبعضها لم يصلح للترميم وتم إعدامه

كنت اقرأ الكتاب وأفكر أين أنا من مجتمع القراء؟؟ كم مكتبة عامة دخلت؟؟ دخلت مكتبة مصر العامة في الزمالك وقد كانت أختي أمينة مكتبة هناك ولم أستفد كثيرا من تلك الميزة التي لم تعوض بعدها ودخلت مكتبة الكونجرس الأمريكي المبهرة في صيف ٢٠٠٣ وأحمل بطاقة عضويتها (الكارنيه) الذي يحمل صورتي قبل الحجاب وإمضائي بخط اليد :) ولكنها كانت زيارات عابرة ... المكتبة الوحيدة التي قصدتها للقراءة والبحث كانت مكتبة كليتي ... خسارة كل هذا الوقت الضائع والفرص الضائعة وألف خسارة

أحسست الكاتب يتحدث عني عندما تكلم عن التركيز في القراءة بالقراءة بصوت عالٍ، فقد كان هذا أسلوبي في المذاكرة وقد سرد مميزات الكلمة المسموعة :)

كانت قراءة الكتاب متعبة فقد كان يدفع للتخيل والتفكير والتساؤل والسرحان ويحض على اللعب بمحتويات المكتبة وإعادة ترتيبها ... ولكن مما زاد القراءة إرهاقا هو الترجمة فقد كان المترجم احيانا يترك العناوين الألمانية مثلا أو يترجم بحروف عربية كأن يقول ""ببلك ليبرري" ! أو يترجم دون تنسيق للفقرات ... ولكن الترجمة لم تؤثر بالسلب على الكتاب ككل فقد أحببت الكتاب جدا وأحب الاحتفاظ به في مكتبتي
Profile Image for Adam Floridia.
586 reviews30 followers
September 26, 2012
This is a book I'm tempted to add to my "Favorites" list, an honor even more prestigious than my "5-star-books" list. It's not that I don't have a few complaints about the book, but this may just have been the perfect book at the perfect time for me. Recently, Life (new job, new baby mainly) has been inhibiting my regular-reading and, dare I say, my ability to become absorbed in a good book, all of which has caused my book-a-week pace to fall to a pathetic book-or-two-a-month pace. That is why I must say the following with emphasis:

There is no better book to extol the joys of reading than The Library at Night. (None that I have come across, at least.)

In the midst of my book-slump, I just read a 300 page book about libraries. Libraries. And it was marvelous! That's in large part due to the fact that it was about so much more than libraries: it covers human history, our collective memory, the power of words, the necessity of books, and the sheer ebullience that reading evokes.

Organized into fifteen "distinct" sections, Mangual's book is an exaltation of the many functions a library can serve. (Examples of chapter titles: The Library As...Myth, Order, Space, Power, Shadow, Shape, Chance, Workshop, Mind, Island Survival, Oblivion, Imagination, Identity, Home.) I write "distinct" sections because lines that separate his groupings are tenuous at best. Some of his tangents seem hardly to fit within the broader chapter heading. But this is nothing more than an organizational imperfection and does not in the least adulterate the pleasure of reading this. The monstrous volume of interesting tidbits and historical facts is staggering (and interesting, and staggering, and infuriating only because I wish I could remember all of them!)

Actually, as I think about it, the real pleasure in reading this came from the ever-present sense of pleasure, so apparent!, that Manguel must have had writing this. It's worth emphasizing the following also:

I have never read a book that elicited such empathy. Warning: what follows is a teerrrrrible analogy that doesn't do the book justice. It's like watching the gag reel on a dvd. The funniest parts, for me at least, are when you get to see the actors just cracking up. You know they're having a blast, and (warning: cliche) that laughter is contagious. Reading this book, you are witness to Mangual's passion for books, and I find it hard not to affected by that.

At the outset, I mentioned that I read this at the right time. Maybe not. I simply can't imagine how much I might have enjoyed it were I in the height of one of my own torrid affairs with literature. I guess I'll find out when I re-read it someday.

Finally, another aspect of this that urges me to add it to my favorites is that I feel I can pick it up, open a page at random, and be blown away by Manguel's love of libraries and all that they represent. This would be a perfect book for Samuel Johnson, who "read with no method or discipline, sometimes leaving books uncut and following the text only where the pages fell open" (255).

A Couple Great Quotations (really tough to pare it down to a couple)
-The existence of any library, even mine, allows readers a sense of what their craft is truly about, a craft that struggles against the stringencies of time by bringing fragments of the past into their present. It grants them a glimpse, however secret or distant, into the minds of other human beings, and allows them a certain knowledge of their own condition through the stories stored here for their perusal. Above all, it tells readers that their craft consist of the power to remember, actively, through the prompt of the page, selected moments of the human experience. This was the great practice established by the Library of Alexandria” (30-31).

-A study lends its owner, its privileged reader, what Seneca called euthymia, a Greek word which Seneca explained means 'well-being of the soul'" (188).
Profile Image for Christine.
6,673 reviews489 followers
November 16, 2013
The greatest thing about any online site or program that allows a reader to create virtual shelves for books is that it allows the reader to create virtual shelves for books. If you have a library, a private library, than you know the contrasting feeling of joy of rearranging the books but also the terror of doing it. But you also know the joy of being surrounded by your books.
This is a book about books en masse for people who own them in masse. If you have two books, this is not the book for you. If you are worried about being crushed to death by library, read this. Once you have moved past envy for someone who has his own free standing library designed how he sees fit, you will fall in love with this book (and add more books to your own library).
In this book, Manuel takes the reader on a tour of that which they already know. It is how we see the library. Along the way, you will be told stories about the power of books, the importance of books, and the conflicting “arghs” that we go though when we shelve books.
It’s about books. It’s about the power of books.
In particular, in light of recent events on various reviews and reviewing sites, I think anyone who has followed those you want to call them, should read this book. The section on censorship alone is worth the cost of the book and points out the essential truth of censorship – we all censored, but then goes into the debate about how far is too far.
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387 reviews445 followers
November 9, 2013
"في الليل يتغيّر الجوّ وتصبح الأصوات مكتومة والأفكار يصير صوتها أعلى. الوقت يبدو أقرب إلى تلك اللحظة في منتصف الطريق بين اليقظة والنوم. بِرَك الضوء التي تتسرّب من المصابيح تشعرني بالدفء. وفي رائحة الرفوف الخشبية وعطر المسك المنبعث من الأغلفة الجلدية ما يكفي لتهدئة الأعصاب وإعداد الإنسان نفسه للنوم".

في مثل هذه الأجواء...يجلس مانغويل برفقة كتبه في مكتبته التي يعود تاريخ بنائها للقرن الخامس عشر الميلادي...ليحدثنا عن تاريخ المكتبات ومقتنياتها من الكتب ومؤسسيها...طارقا أبوابا تاريخية أتعرف عليها للمرة الأولى...
لمانغويل علاقة حميمية بكتبه ومكتبته جعلته يتمنى أن يكون أمين مكتبة في شبابه، وجعلته يقتني الكتب لدرجة أصبحت تهدد بطمس حدود بيته...وحديثه في كتابه هذا يتمحور حول المكتبة ومظاهرها...يمنح من خلاله المكتبة حياة

المكتبة...أسطورة...ترتيبا...مكانا...سلطة...طيفا...شكلا...عامل مصادفة...ورشة عمل...عقلا...جزيرة...وسيلة بقاء...خيالا...هوية...وطنا

خمسة عشر فصلا...ضمنها تجربته الخاصة مع الكتب والمكتبات...وتشي بسعة معرفته ومعلوماته...ففي جعبته الكثير من القصص والقراءات والصور...ولتاريخنا العربي والإسلامي نصيب كبير في ذلك...وهذا مما زادني فخرا وزاد قراءة الكتاب متعة...حتى جعلني أعود لسيرة مانغويل الذاتية وأقرأ عنه.
مانغويل بصراحة مبدع في طرحه...أسلوبه ممتع سلس...وتناوله للموضوع مبتكر ومميز

وفي كل صفحة ستجد منه...إضاءة...عبارة جميلة...لفتة غريبة...تخيلات عجيبة
ففي مخيلته الكتب ترقص...تغني...تتطاير...تمزق بعضها

"كلّ كتاب ينادي على الآخر بشكل غير متوقّع. ونصف سطر يمكن أن يتردّد صداه في سطر آخر لأسباب قد لا تكون واضحة في ضوء النهار. وإذا كانت المكتبة في النهار صدى للنظام والترتيب الشديد والمطلوب في العالم، فإن المكتبة في الليل تبدو فرحة بالتشوّش المبهج للأشياء في الخارج".

متحدثا عن المكتبات منذ القدم...من بناها...ومن ساهم في هدمها وحرق كتبها ليدمر حضارة كاملة...من برج بابل...إلى مكتبة الإسكندرية ...وكهوف موغاو في الصين...ومن آشور بانيبال إلى زوماراغا الذي دمر معظم كتب الأزتيك...والمسيحيون الكاثوليك الذين دمروا مكتبات المكسيك وأمريكا الوسطى...
ولا ينس الحديث عن الكتب التي منعت، واحتفظ بها سرا في معسكرات الاعتقال، وبرأيه "إن كتابا ممنوعا أو محروقا يمكن أن يكون أكثر تخريبا من كتاب سليم لأنه، بغيابه، ينال نوعا من الخلود".

وعن المكتبة الرقمية وأثر وجودها، فيرى أن المكتبة ليست شيئا مادّيّا، بل هي جوّ وثقافة وتاريخ متراكم يغرق في عمق الجدران والأرفف. وهو يرى أن الكتاب الذي يُقرأ على شاشة ولا نستطيع أن نملكه ولا أن نحبّه أو نمسك به بأيدينا، لا يمكن أن نهضمه أو نستوعبه في عقولنا

حديث مانغويل لا يُمَلّ...زادني ارتباطا روحيّا بكتبي ومكتبتي...وشجعني على قراءة بقية كتبه..وإن كان غير مترابط أحيانا...فقد تخيلته يجول بمكتبته ويتحدث لقرائه...فاتحا كتابا مختلفا في كل مرة...مغيرا وضعيّة جلوسه ومكانه...وكأن في جعبته الكثير من الكلام والقليل من الوقت

من إضاءات مانغويل:

"في الضوء، نقرأ ابتكارات الآخرين، وفي الظلام نبتكر قصصنا الخاصّة".

"الكتب القديمة التي عرفنا عنها ولم نمتلكها تعبر طريقنا وتدعو نفسها ثانية. والكتب الجديدة تحاول إغواءنا يوميّا بالعناوين المثيرة والأغلفة المحيّرة".

"في الليل، عندما تُضاء مصابيح المكتبة، يختفي العالم الخارجيّ ولا يعود موجودا سوى فراغ الكتب".

"في الظلام، بينما النافذة مضاءة وصفوف الكتب تتألّق، تصبح المكتبة مساحة مغلقة، كوناً لا شكل له".

"كلّ واحد من كتبي هرب، إمّا من النار أو الماء أو غبار الزمن أو من القرّاء المهملين أو يد الرقيب، وأتى إلى هنا كي يحكي لي قصّته".

"في الليل، هنا في المكتبة، يصبح للأشباح أصوات".

"عندما تقرأ كتابا وأنت جالس داخل دائرة فأنت لا تقرؤه بنفس الطريقة عندما تكون جالسا داخل مربّع أو في غرفة سقفها منخفض أو في أخرى ذات عوارض خشبية عالية".

"كلّ قارئ ما هو إلا فصل واحد في حياة كتاب. وما لم ينقل ما عرفه للآخرين فكأنّه حكم على ذلك الكتاب بالموت حرقا".

"القصص هي ذاكرتنا، والمكتبات هي مستودعات تلك الذاكرة، والقراءة هي الحرفة التي نستطيع من خلالها إعادة تشكيل تلك الذاكرة بترجمتها إلى تجاربنا الخاصّة".

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