Curiosity has been seen through the ages as the impulse that drives our knowledge forward and the temptation that leads us toward dangerous and forbidden waters. Read more...
Curiosity has been seen through the ages as the impulse that drives our knowledge forward and the temptation that leads us toward dangerous and forbidden waters. The question "Why?" has appeared under a multiplicity of guises and in vastly different contexts throughout the chapters of human history. Why does evil exist? What is beauty? How does language inform us? What defines our identity? What is our responsibility to the world? In Alberto Manguel's most personal book to date, the author tracks his own life of curiosity through the reading that has mapped his way.
Manguel chooses as his guides a selection of writers who sparked his imagination. He dedicates each chapter to a single thinker, scientist, artist, or other figure who demonstrated in a fresh way how to ask "Why?" Leading us through a full gallery of inquisitives, among them Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, Lewis Carroll, Rachel Carson, Socrates, and, most importantly, Dante, Manguel affirms how deeply connected our curiosity is to the readings that most astonish us, and how essential to the soaring of our own imaginations.
- ISBN-13: 9780300184785
- ISBN-10: 0300184786
- Publisher: Yale University Press
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Page Count: 392
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 5.9 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-12
- Reviewer: Staff
The search for knowledge, and the discontents associated with that search, provide a loose pretext for this rambling literary meditation. Manguel (All Men are Liars) frames his text around The Divine Comedy, his model for a soul-shaking inquiry into the cosmos, examining Dante’s approach to a raft of questions about the nature of language, reasoning, animals, acquisitiveness, good and evil, and much more. Along the way he calls in other writers and philosophers, including Aquinas, Hume, Dickens, and Primo Levi, and visits topics such as economic inequality, environmental devastation, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and language skills among chimpanzees. Manguel’s loose-jointed, free-associative chapters make for a hit-and-miss intellectual tour. At some points, he gets bogged down with ornate self-indulgence, while at others his thoughts focus into sharp, insightful discussions of intriguing themes, such as identity in Alice in Wonderland, the unjust disparagement of the ancient Sophists, and the contrast between the morally coherent punishments in Dante’s hell and the inexplicable torments of Auschwitz. Throughout, Manguel’s main guiding principle seems to be to simply follow his nose to whatever tangentially related topic interests him. The average reader’s curiosity will be piqued by some, though perhaps not all, of the discoveries he makes. Photos. (Mar.)