Packing My Library by Alberto Manguel review – a bibliophile’s demons

The urbane Argentinian grumpily boxes up his 35,000 books and writes a Jekyll and Hyde set of reflections on libraries and the power of reading

One feverish night, Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed of a terrifying “hue of brown”. It was the latest visitation from the Night Hag, his term for the horrors that had haunted him from early childhood, and which he exorcised through his writing. From this simple colour dream, Alberto Manguel writes, Stevenson crafted his nightmarish novel, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Manguel has so often referenced the Scottish author in his work (not least in his 2003 novella Stevenson Under the Palm Trees) that it’s tempting to see him as a sort of Hyde to his Jekyll: unworldly, sickly and creatively possessed in a way that the urbane Argentinian-born bibliophile could never be.

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