Des Cowley reviews 'The Library: A catalogue of wonders' by Stuart Kells

Des Cowley reviews 'The Library: A catalogue of wonders' by Stuart Kells

The Library: A catalogue of wonders

by Stuart Kells

Text Publishing, $32.99 pb, 278 pp, 9781925355994

In 2002, journalist Guy Rundle published a piece devoted to the little-known visit by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges to Melbourne in May 1938. During his ten-day stay, Borges spent time in the domed reading room of the State Library, a place he found ‘awe-inspiring, even overwhelming’. As a long-term reader of Borges, and having spent much of my working life at the Library, I felt elated by this connection. Alas, the story turned out to be a hoax, though not before it circulated widely on the internet. With hindsight, I realise that I – and others – believed it because we wanted to believe that this writer who composed such eloquent stories about books and libraries, and who later held the position as director of the National Library in Buenos Aires, had been awestruck by our library.

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Des Cowley

Des Cowley

Des Cowley is the History of the Book Manager at State Library Victoria. He is co-curator of the Library’s permanent exhibition Mirror of the World: Books and Ideas and co-author of The World of the Book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2007.