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LIVE from the NYPL: The Library at Night: ALBERTO MANGUEL in conversation with Paul Holdengräber


Ever wonder what happens when the last person leaves the library, darkness descends, and the books begin to breathe? In the tradition of A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel's The Library at Night is the captivating story of how libraries embody the memories of individuals and whole cultures. Magically, he takes us to libraries when the lights go out, when books are rightful owners and the reader is the interloper. When all daytime order is upended, one book calls to another across the shelves, and new alliances are created across time and space.

He takes us to the "memory libraries" of prisoners, the libraries of banned books, the "imaginary libraries" of books not yet written, like those carried by Count Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, the libraries of the famous, the doomed, the personal along with the libraries that have preserved freedom of thought in the face of tyranny like the librarian in charge of the Scholem Aleichem Library in Poland, who, after the Nazis began their destruction of the Jewish libraries, carried away as many books as he could, or like the children's library at Auschwitz.

Drawing on sources as wide-ranging as his childhood bookshelves in Buenos Aires, and the complete libraries of the Internet, Alberto Manguel wanders from Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google telling of his astonishment at the variety, beauty and persistence of our efforts to shape the world and our lives, most notably through something almost as old as reading itself: libraries.

"In my foolhardly 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. Sloth and an ill-restrained fondness for travel decided otherwise. Now, however, having reached the age of fifty-six (which, according to Dostoevsky in The Idiot, is "the age at which real life can be rightly said to begin"), I've returned to that early ideal and,?though I cannot properly call myself a librarian, I live among ever-increasing bookshelves whose limits begin to blur or coincide with the house itself. The title of this book should have been Voyage around My Room. Regrettably, over two centuries ago, the notorious Xavier de Maistre got there first."

Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

This event is co-presented by Instituto Cervantes. 


About Alberto Manguel

Alberto Manguel, an essayist, novelist, editor, translator, and anthologist, was born and educated in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the author of several books including Reading Pictures: A History of Love and Hate and A History of Reading. He has published and discussed fine examples of Latin American ghost stories, European classic tales, and American science fiction in such works as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature, and Other Fires: Short Fiction by Latin-American Women. He now lives in France, where he was named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.




About Paul Holdengräber

Paul Holdengräber is the Director of Public Programs - now known as "LIVE from the NYPL" - for The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library.