Picture of author.

Alberto Manguel

Author of A History of Reading

116+ Works 14,814 Members 280 Reviews 67 Favorited

About the Author

Alberto Manguel is a Canadian writer, translator, editor, and critic. Born in Buenos Aires, he has since resided in Israel, Argentina, Europe, the South Pacific, and Canada.
Image credit: Alberto Manguel in his library


Works by Alberto Manguel

A History of Reading (1996) 3,815 copies
The Library at Night (2006) — Author — 2,670 copies
Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (2017) — Author — 514 copies
Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature (1983) — Editor — 506 copies
A Reader on Reading (2010) 505 copies
The City of Words (2007) 297 copies
Curiosity (2000) — Author — 248 copies
With Borges (2003) 239 copies
All Men Are Liars (2008) 192 copies
Black Water 2: More Tales of the Fantastic (1990) — Editor — 153 copies
Other Fires: Short Fiction by Latin American Women (1985) — Editor & Translator — 123 copies
The Gates of Paradise (1993) — Editor — 116 copies
The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories (2005) — Editor — 75 copies
Dark Arrows: Great Stories of Revenge (1985) — Editor — 61 copies
Relatos (1987) — Editor — 34 copies
Mothers and Daughters: An Anthology (1998) — Editor — 33 copies
The Library Book (2017) 33 copies
Amante Detalhista, O (2005) 30 copies
Soho Square Three (Bk. 3) (1990) 29 copies
Magic Land of Toys (2006) 28 copies
Fathers & Sons (1998) 25 copies
Canadian Mystery Stories (1991) — Editor — 23 copies
The Oxford Book of Canadian Ghost Stories (1990) — Editor — 19 copies
El regreso (2005) 13 copies
Borges'in Evinde (2002) 11 copies
El regreso de Ulises (2014) 6 copies
Von Atlantis bis Utopia I (1987) 6 copies
Le Livre des Eloges (2007) 5 copies
Sehnsucht Utopie (2017) 5 copies
Histoires classiques (2010) 3 copies
Adolescenza (1996) 2 copies
Ayrintilara Asik Adam (2019) 1 copy
Personajes imaginarios (2011) 1 copy
Bestiario 1 copy

Associated Works

The Secret Supper (2003) — Translator, some editions — 1,740 copies
Plain Tales from the Hills (1888) — Preface, some editions — 1,348 copies
Mist (1907) — Introduction, some editions — 1,252 copies
Bad Trips (1991) — Contributor — 233 copies
The Solitudes (1613) — Introduction, some editions — 225 copies
The Merciful Women (2000) — Translator, some editions — 210 copies
Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears (2006) — Foreword, some editions — 85 copies
Travels in the Reich, 1933-1945: Foreign Authors Report from Germany (2004) — Editor, some editions — 84 copies
Story of a Nation: Defining Moments in Our History (2001) — Contributor — 50 copies
Die unendliche Bibliothek: Erzählungen (Fischer Taschenbibliothek) (2010) — Editor and Afterword, some editions — 32 copies
The Imagined Land (2011) — Introduction, some editions — 25 copies
Slightly Foxed 34: Return to Arcadia (2012) — Contributor — 24 copies
Las bibliotecas de Dédalo (2006) — Foreword, some editions — 14 copies
The Analog Sea Review: Number Three (2020) — Contributor — 10 copies
Into The Unknown: A Journey Through Science Fiction (2017) — Contributor — 5 copies
L'angoisse du héron : Suivi de L'angoisse du lecteur (2009) — some editions — 3 copies


20th century (54) Alberto Manguel (72) anthology (199) art (118) bibliophilia (150) book history (86) books (598) books about books (770) books and reading (137) classics (65) cultural history (74) essay (110) essays (395) fantasy (153) fiction (769) historical fiction (109) history (594) India (80) Javier Sierra (76) libraries (392) library (138) literary criticism (201) literature (512) Manguel (96) memoir (99) mystery (69) non-fiction (899) novel (70) Novela (77) philosophy (69) poetry (72) read (112) reading (568) reference (85) short stories (372) Spanish (81) Spanish literature (90) to-read (766) travel (76) unread (93)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Manguel, Alberto
Legal name
Manguel, Alberto
Argentina (birth)
Canada (naturalized)
Country (for map)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Places of residence
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Poitou-Charentes region, France
Italy (show all 8)
England, UK
Lisbon, Portugal
Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires
Universidad de Buenos Aires
publisher's reader
Stephenson, Craig (husband)
Writer's Union of Canada
National Library of Argentina
Roxburghe Club
Awards and honors
Officer, Order of Canada (2017)
Fellow, Royal Society of Literature (2010)
Prix Roger Callois (2004)
Premio German Sanchez Ruiperez (2002)
Prix Médicis Essai (1998)
Gutenberg Prize (2018) (show all 19)
Roxburghe Club (2021)
Prix Formentor (2017)
Premio Grinzane Cavour (2007)
Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2004)
Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1996)
McKitterick First Novel Award (1992)
Milovan Vidakovic Literary Award (2007)
Canadian Writers' Association Award (1992)
Distinguished Visiting Writer, University of Calgary
Honorary Doctorate (University of Liege ∙ 2007)
Honorary Doctorate (Anglia Ruskin University)
Guggenheim Fellowship (2004)
Premio La Nación (1971)
Guillermo Schavelzon
Jennifer Barclay
Bruce Westwood
Short biography
Alberto Manguel was born in Buenos Aires and settled in France. He is a member of the Writer's Union of Canada, PEN, and a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, and has been named an Officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Liège in Belgium and the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and also won the Germán Sánchez Ruipérez Prize (Spain) and the Prix Roger Caillois (France) for the ensemble of his work, which has been translated into more than thirty languages. [from My Name is Victoria (2011)]



I loved this very personal, quirky, little book. It describes the authors emotions and feelings as he packs up his library after being forced to move from France where he and his partner had lived for many years and where he had built up and loved his library of some 35,000 books. That is a decent collection....it would put him at about No. 40 in terms of size with the personal libraries of current LibraryThing members. (I rate only a paltry No. 2,500). So he has been a serious collector and reader of books. If he's actually read them all it would mean that he'd been reading 500 books a year for every one of his 70 years....unlikely). But there are so many passages in the book that resonate with me: Viz
"I can work happily only in my own private library, with my own books—or, rather, with the books I know to be mine". [In contrast with woking happily in public libraries which he apparently enjoys also].

And this I found to be so true: "Because a library is a place of memory, as [Walter] Benjamin noted, the unpacking of one's books quickly becomes a mnemonic ritual. "Not thoughts," Benjamin writes, "but images, memories," are conjured in the process. Memories of the cities in which he found his treasures, memories of the auction rooms in which he bought several of them, memories of the past rooms in which his books were kept." I have found that my library is like a physical extension of my mind and memory. I used to be able to go to my shelves (when they were more limited and better organised) and find a tome where I vaguely remembered some words or phrase from long ago. In fact, I won a competition of this sort ("Who wrote this?") at the Australian National University may years ago by being able to find some words of Malcolm Muggeridge that I had read long before. But Google search soon put a stop to that sort of activity.

A century ago, Thomas Carlyle described the writer in these words: "He, with his copy-rights and his copy-wrongs, in his squalid garret, in his rusty coat; ruling (for this is what he does), from his grave, after death, whole nations and generations who would, or would not, give him bread while living." I have also treasured the words, attributed to Carlyle, that "Knowledge is of two forms: either you know something or you know where you can find out about it"....and my library, for me, has been where I can find out about it.

He woke up one morning thinking about Kafka (and had three shelves devoted to Kafka): ........"I no longer have Kafka's books at hand, but in a notebook I carry around I jotted down certain lines from his correspondence, such as this one: "We read to ask questions." Indeed. Reading Kafka, I sense that the elicited questions are always just beyond my understanding. They promise an answer but not now, perhaps next time, next page".

And, after he has packed he reflects on the organisation of his collection: "What quirk made me cluster these volumes into something like the colored countries on my globe? What brought on these associations that seemed to owe their meaning to faded emotions and a logic whose rules I can now no longer remember? And does my present self-reflect that distant haunting? Because if every library is autobiographical, its packing up seems to have something of a self-obituary. Perhaps these questions are the true subject of this elegy.
There are certain readers for whom books exist in the moment of reading them, and later as memories of the read pages, but who feel that the physical incarnations of books are dispensable. Borges, for instance, was one of these. Those who never visited Borges's modest flat imagined his library to be as vast as that of Babel. In fact, Borges kept only a few hundred books, and even these he used to give away as gifts to visitors".....But it seems to me that Alberto Manguel is not like Borges ....he needs the books as an extension of his mind.
I've captured, below, a few extracts from his "elegy" that resonated with me for various reasons.
"The comforting objects on my own night table are (have always been) books, and my library was itself a place of comfort and quiet reassurance. It may be that books have this reassuring quality because we don't really possess them: books possess us".
"Even though history has taught us that nothing lasts for long, the impulse to create in the face of impending destruction, to resettle in foreign lands and reproduce ancestral models, to build new libraries is a powerful and unquenchable impulse".
"Translators, perhaps more than any other word-smiths, know this: whatever we build out of words can never seize in its entirety the desired object. The Word that is in the beginning names but can never be named".
"The Word that breathes life (both Borges and Dante realized) is not equivalent to the living creature who breathes the word: the word that remains on the page, the word that, while imitating life, is incapable of being life. Plato made Socrates decry the creations of artists and poets for that very reason: art is imitation, never the real thing".

""Since life is a voyage or a battle," remarked Raymond Queneau, "every story is either the Iliad or the Odyssey." Are we incapable of conceiving of an entirely new story or do we recognize in every story traces of our previous readings? Does the fact that Adventures of Pinocchio seems to me like a rewriting of Adventures of Telemachus (both tell the story of a boy in search of his father)".
"The ancients weren't troubled by originality. The stories Homer told were long familiar to his listeners, and Dante could count on his audience knowing (all too well) of the sins punished in hell and the gossip about Paolo and Francesca".
"After having said good-bye to the house in which I had lived for so long and packed my books, not knowing when I would see them again, I was moved by the sight of the reconstructed bookshelves, the stone walls, the small windows streaked with gusts of rain as if by the apparition of the ghost of a dear dead friend. I felt that the library I had lost had been transformed into a different one, the now shared symbol of something that I could only vaguely understand but knew to be real". {I feel his sadness].
"One day in 1842, the thirty-eight-year-old [Nathaniel] Hawthorne wrote, "To write a dream, which shall resemble the real course of a dream, with all its inconsistency, its eccentricities and aimlessness-with nevertheless a leading idea running through the whole. Up to this old age of the world, no such thing has ever been written.".....[What a revelation...these words came back to me just a few days ago when I awoke suddenly...and thus remembered clearly the last lazy fusion of events from by dream..clear enough to recognise the origins of most but the strange blending of different themes and ideas was almost hallucinogenic].

"No doubt the writer's task is to embrace Humpty Dumpty's faith in the powers of language, and be the master, while at the same time convincing Alice that he submits to the rules of a shared understanding, rules over which the words themselves hold dominion".

On Language: "Each particular language provokes or allows a certain way of thinking, elicits certain specific thoughts that come to our mind not only through but because of the language we call ours. Every translator knows that passing from one language to another is less an act of reconstruction than one of reconversion, in the profoundest sense of changing one's system of belief. No French author would ever come up with "être ou ne pas être" for "To be or not to be" any more than an English author would write
"For a long time I went to bed early" for "Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure." Their language, not their experience, disallows it".

And a little bit of personal information about his youth: "Because my father was in the diplomatic service, when I was a few months old I was taken to his first posting and didn't return until I was seven. I did my schooling in Buenos Aires, and left again in 1969 as a twenty-one-year-old eager to travel. I returned on a number of occasions, but I never lived in Argentina again. In 2014, after my partner and I left France, we settled in New York. Now I was asked to leave everything once more and return to Buenos Aires. After much hesitation, I accepted".

"In a literary twist that Henry James might have enjoyed, the man responsible for the destruction of many of the earliest documents of the Olmec, Aztec, and Mayan civilizations was responsible as well for establishing, in 1539, the first printing press in all the Americas. The earliest productions of the press included a book by Zumárraga himself, Brief Doctrine of the Christian Faith, but also a Latin edition of the Dialectics of Aristotle and a handbook of Mexican (native) grammar by Alonso de Molina. Books are often wiser and more generous than their makers".
But a lovely, thoughtful little book that I have taken to heart and I'm pleased that his book collection has since been unpacked in Canada and made into some sort of public monument....I assume that it has become a public library ...and what more could Manguel hope for really. I'm in the throes of downsizing my library and donating most to charity. All rather sad. But five stars to Manguel for capturing in words what it means to a bibliophile to have to "pack up" their library.
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booktsunami | 18 other reviews | Jun 14, 2024 |
This book really deserves a higher rating, but my ratings usually reflect how good I think the book is and how much I enjoyed it. This book was excellent, and I enjoyed it, but a lot of it was over my head, so I didn't enjoy it as much as what I would normally give a "4" to, although it was probably better written than most. What was best about the book is that it gives you lots to think about (about books, about reading, knowledge....).
dvoratreis | 69 other reviews | May 22, 2024 |
Packing My Library is a wonderful book. There are not many books that I finish and immediately begin to read again. Anyone who loves Borges will find fascinating references to him and to the Library of Buenos Aires, not to mention the origin of the city, as just one of the many dimensions that give this book so much depth. Alberto Manguel is somewhat cryptic about why he had to pack up his library in France but the real treasure in this book is his relationship to his books indeed to books in general.

I am reminded of a particularly moving cultural insight that came to me from the head Librarian of the Library of Nicaragua during a period of my life when I was a part of an international group developing a metadata standard called the Dublin Core. After our meetings, over drinks, we would often discuss some of the cultural characteristics of metadata implementation. These were fairly archetypal: the Germans were worried that the details were not fully resolved, the Americans saw commercial advantage, the French were concerned about equity of access and the Australians and the Nordic countries just ran with it. But the Latin Countries wanted nothing to do with it (the metadata standard). After one of our meetings in Seattle, I found myself talking to the Nicaraguan Librarian and asked her why?

She told me this story...in Nicaragua there was a very wealthy man who had spent a great deal of time and money assembling a large private library. He loved his books. He spent as much time as could in his library communing with his books. He let it be known to the Library of Nicaragua that when he died he intended to leave his library with lots of money to the Library of Nicaragua. Years passed. One day he died and sure enough he had left the Library of Nicaragua his library and a significant sum of money to care for his books.

If his had happened in the UK or Germany or the USA etc, the books would have been packed into boxes and found their way to catalogers who would have checked the quality of each book against existing holdings, perhaps pasted a book plate in the front saying. 'donated by...', applied a Dewey Decimal number etc. Some of the books but not all may have found their way into the shelves beside books of similar subjects or by the same author.

Not in Nicaragua.

Instead the Library of Nicaragua spent a significant portion of the money building a wing onto the Library of Nicaragua that closely resembled the library of the benefactor. Then, very carefully, the books were moved into the exact positions that the benefactor had placed them n his own library. What was most important to the Nicaraguans was neither the books nor the content of the books but the man's relationship to his books.

Packing My Library has this quality. A man in love with books. A mind able to see beyond their content into how books frame our perceptions of the world.

This is a poignant book for me because I am beginning the process of doing the reverse - of unpacking my books. The books I have not seen since 1988 with the additional challenge of absorbing my dead parents books. It's a hands-on process for me because I'm milling the timber to make the shelves of my library - I estimate about 20,000 books or 250m of shelves...

There were notable passages in Packing My Library such as, '...this style of thought, for want of a better term, allows us to believe that the world around us is a narrative world, and that landscapes and events are part of a story we are compelled to follow at the same time as we create it.'
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simonpockley | 18 other reviews | Feb 25, 2024 |
Just a bunch of quotes from this book, tracing the influence of Homer through Western thought.

"Every great work of literature is either the Iliad or the Odyssey. - Raymond Queneau

"Though Homer might have been 'best and most divine' for Socrates (or rather for Plato, who made Socrates pronounce this encomium), he also presented a philosophical dilemma... those who make images of images have no place in a well-regulated world, since they produce nothing that is true... Even Homer (and here begins Plato's battle with the poet he most admires) cannot be allowed in the ideal republic because, not only does he put forward images that are untrue, he presents men and women with whose faults we sympathize, gods and goddesses whom we must judge as fallible. Literature, Plato says, feeds that part in our soul that relishes 'contemplating the woes of others', praising and pitying someone who, though 'claiming to be a good man, abandons himself to excess in his grief.' This 'is the element in us that the poets satisfy and delight' and, to avoid it, we should 'disdain the poem altogether', otherwise, 'after feeding fat the emotion of pity there, it is not easy to restrain it in our own suffering.'"

"Virgil's Aeneid, perhaps the greatest Roman literary achievement, is explicitly modeled on Homer's poems, and if Virgil owes an immense debt to Homer, the reverse is also true, because after Virgil, Homer acquired a new identity, that of Rome's earliest myth-maker. During the first Roman centuries, three legendary figures competed for the position of founder of the city: Romulus who, with his twin brother Remus, was supposed to have been suckled by a she-wolf, Ulysses the traveller, and Aeneas, the survivor of Troy. It was Marcus Terentius Varro, 'the most learned of Romans' according to the rhetorician Quintilian, who, in the first century BC, established Aeneas as the winner... but it was Virgil who transformed the legend into something resembling history, lending the defeated Trojans a posthumous victory over their enemy. Thanks to Virgil, the works of Homer, which had seemed until that point to be merely stories (albeit masterly) of battling and travel, were read after Virgil as inspired premonitions of the world to come: first of Rome and its imperial power, and later of the advent of Christianity and beyond."

"For the great scholars and readers of the early Church, the apparent conflict between the old pagan literature and the dogma of the new faith presented a difficult intellectual problem. One of the most learned of these Christian scholars, St. Jerome, attempted throughout his long life to reconcile the two. Jerome realized that he could never honestly disclaim Homer as his own beginning, nor could he ignore the intellectual and aesthetic pleasure Homer's books had given him. Instead, he could create a hierarchy, a gradus ad Parnassum of which Homer and the ancients were the necessary grounding, and the Bible the highest peak."

"By the end of the fourth century, the division between the Greek east and the Latin west half of the Empire became more evident. In the east, Church and state lent its citizens the sense of living in a divinely appointed Christian realm, while in the west, service to the emperor and service to the Christian authorities were seen as two separate duties. Intellectually, the east held as essential the traditional study of the classics, both Greek and Latin; in the west, classical scholarship was judged part and parcel of pagan beliefs. Therefore, while Homer continued to be edited, studied and read in Constantinople, in Rome he all but faded from the memory of readers... While in the east, Bishop Athanasius told holy virgins 'to have books in their hands at dawn', in the west, Christians quoted Augustine who had written approvingly of holy men who lived through 'faith, hope and charity - without books.'"

"Towards the end of the Middle Ages, scholars and poets returned, once again, to the questions that had preoccupied Jerome and Augustine regarding the relationship between Homer's stories and the stories of the Bible... a search for correspondences between what the ancients had told and what the Church had revealed, establishing a sequence of parallel readings that honoured one without dishonouring the other.. for example, Achilles in the Iliad and David in the Old Testament, or between the stages of Ulysses' return and the troubled exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. In the early fourteenth century, Albertino Mussato, the most celebrated of the members of the cenacolo padovano or Paduan Circle of Latin poets, argued that the pagan writers had expressed the same ideas as those found in Scripture, but in the form of enigmas or riddles in which they had secretly announced the coming of the True Messiah."

"Dante acquired his Homer through Virgil... in this sense, Virgil was not only Dante's guide through Hell, he was also his source and inspiration, and through him Dante was able to enjoy the experience of Homer's work... Even though the complex architecture of the afterlife realm is, to a large degree, Dante's own, the foundation-stone is Homer's."

"Michel de Montaigne, writing in the last decades of the sixteenth century, chose Homer as one of the three 'most excellent of men' of all time... 'Nothing lives on the lips of men,' wrote Montaigne, 'like his name and his work: nothing is as known or accepted as Troy, Helen and his wars - that may never have taken place on real ground. Who does not know of Hector and Achilles? Not only individual lineages but most nations seek their origins in Homer's inventions. Mehemet II, Emperor of the Turks, wrote thus to our Pope Pius II: "I am amazed that the Italians should band against me, since we both have a common Trojan origin and, like the Italians, I have an interest in avenging the blood of Hector on the Greeks whom they however favour against me."'

"But Homer could be understood as a counter-argument to the Enlightenment's view of a world driven by rationality alone, a view put forward, for instance, in Diderot's D'Alembert's Dream of 1769. The book, intelligent and humorous, consists of a series of philosophical dialogues in which Diderot proposes a revised materialist account of human history and animal life, suggesting that emotions, ideas and thoughts could be explained through biological evidence, without recourse to theology or spirituality, and dismissing all uncritical reverence for the past... For Diderot, Homer belonged to a primitive, superstitious age."

"For Shelley too, Greece was Homer. Homer's poems, he wrote in A Defence of Poetry in 1821, 'were the elements of that social system which is the column upon which all succeeding civilization has reposed. Homer embodied the ideal perfection of his age in human character; nor can we doubt that those who read his verses were awakened to an ambition of becoming like Achilles, Hector, and Ulysses: the truth and beauty of friendship, patriotism, and persevering devotion to an object, were unveiled to the depths in these immortal creations.'"

"If Homer had created the model both of craft and theme, then, Byron believed, it was the modern poet's task to translate both elements into a contemporary idiom. The subjects of war and travel in the Iliad and the Odyssey were recast into Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812) and Don Juan (1819-24), in which both heroes have something of Ulysses in their makeup and become the privileged witnesses of less than heroic Troys."

"Shortly before his death in 1832, Goethe finished the last section of his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit. In it, he hails his century as one fortunate enough to have witnessed the rebirth of Homer. 'Happy is that literary age,' he wrote, 'when great works of art of the past rise to the surface again and become part of our daily dealings, for it is then that they produce a new effect. For us, Homer's sun rose again, and according to the requirements of our age... No longer did we see in those poems a violent and inflated heroic world, but rather the mirrored truth of an essential present, and we tried to make him as much ours as possible.'"

"Homer was for Nietzche a creative Apollonian force that wrote his poems 'in order to persuade us to continue to live.' Homer's gods justify human life by sharing it with us mortals; for his heroes, the greatest pain is therefore to leave this life, especially when one is young... Freud did, however, follow Nietzche in noting that the value we place on life after death was a development of post-Homeric times and, like Nietzche, quoted in support of his theory the answer Achilles gave to Ulysses in the Underworld."

"William Butler Yeats, in an essay written in 1905, which Joyce had with him in Trieste, had suggested that the time was ripe for a new writer to revisit the ancient world of the Odyssey. 'I think that we will learn again,' he said with visionary wisdom, 'how to describe at great length an old man wandering among enchanted islands, his return home at last, his slowly gathering vengeance, a flitting shape of a goddess, and a flight of arrows, and yet to make all these so different things... become... the signature or symbol of a mood of the divine imagination.' In Yeats' rallying call, and in Vico, Joyce found confirmation of his intuition. Philological synchronicities bolstered his confidence. The Odyssey begins with Ulysses on Calypso's island, Ogygia. Joyce discovered that Ogygia was the name that Plutarch had long ago given to Ireland. Although Joyce had told Vladimir Nabokov in 1937 that basing his Ulysses on Homer's poem was 'a whim' and that his collaboration with Stuart Gilbert in preparing a Homeric correspondence to Ulysses was 'a terrible mistake' (Joyce deleted the Homeric titles of his chapters before Ulysses was published in book form), Homer's presence is very obviously noticeable throughout the novel. Nabokov suggested that a mysterious character who keeps appearing in Ulysses, described only as 'the man in the brown macintosh' and never clearly identified, might be Joyce himself lurking in his own pages. It might just as well be Homer, come to supervise the renovation of his works."

"In the process of association, however, they all become Joycean, as in the beautiful use of Homeric epithets in Joyce's description of the Citizen Cyclops:
The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freelyfreckled shaggybearded widemouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero."
"Joyce's Ulysses is not an interpretation of Homer, neither is it a retelling, even less a pastiche. Dr. Johnson, writing in 1765, argued that 'The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to transcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new-name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments. The reverence due to writings that have long subsisted arises therefore not from any credulous confidence in the superior wisdom of past ages, or gloomy persuasion of the degeneracy of mankind, but is the consequence of acknowledged and indubitable positions, that what has been longest known has been most considered, and what is most considered is best understood.'

Joyce did other than acknowledge Homer's position: he re-imagined the story of the primordial journey undertaken by every man in every age. His coupling was less between Ulysses and Bloom than between Homer and Joyce himself, less between the creations than between the creators. Other writers made Homer theirs through translation, transposition, projection. Joyce did it by starting again."
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lelandleslie | 10 other reviews | Feb 24, 2024 |



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