Monday, 29 February 2016

Let me recommend you a book and... come fly with me!

Today I’d like to introduce to you one of my favourite books ever. This is not one of the best ones I’ve ever read but it means a lot to me. My father gave me this book when I was about 15 years old and I’ve loved it ever since. It opened a whole universe where to escape to in those strange teen years. The book is The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi

The title of the book is pretty self-explanatory: it is a dictionary of imaginary places. Just as a dictionary has a number of entries in alphabetical order with a definition of that entry, this Dictionary contains a long list of places and a description of the place, the people living there (in case somebody lives there), how to get there, the costumes, the traditions, maps, etc., any information that can be retrieved from the sources. Let me explain.

The authors of the Dictionary, Gianni Guadalupi (an Italian historian who has written, mainly, books about travelling and exploring) and Alberto Manguel (a Canadian-Argentinian editor, novelist, essayist, anthologist, translator and author of many non-fiction books) explain in the beautiful foreword why they decided to write this book: one afternoon in 1977, Guadalupi proposed Manguel to write a travel guide for the explorer who wants to visit the ancient (and imaginary) city of Selene, invented by Paul Féval in his novel La Ville Vampire. This idea developed into creating a guide for the explorers interested in other imaginary places. It took them years to gather a list of places and all the existing information about them. The first edition was published in 1980, followed by an extended second edition published in 1987, and an even more extended third edition in 1999 (the version I have, translated into Spanish). 


At the end of every description - which is addressed to the explorer, just as if it was a real travel guide, - you can read the name of the creator of that place, the name of all the books you can find that place in, and where/when those books were published (see the photos Leonia vs Leuké). 


Also, at the end of the book, there is an index of all the places mentioned in the Dictionary classified by their authors, so you can easily find authors such as
 Hans Christian Andersen, Sir James Matthew Barrie, L. Frank Baum, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Jorge Luis Borges, Charlotte Brontë, John Bunyan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Étienne Cabet, Italo Calvino, Lewis Carroll, Chrétien de Troyes, to mention just a few.

I loved this book when I was a teen because I love travelling; I think I’ve always done so. As a little girl, I would take an atlas and spend hours looking at the maps. But after some time, the world was not big enough and I needed a bigger universe to explore, and this Dictionary was the perfect solution because it gave me a glimpse of all this imaginary places I could visit.

I really hope there is going to be a new extended edition because in the last one, and just to mention a few examples, not a single place imagined by G.R.R. Martin can be found (even though A Game of Thrones was published in 1996 and A Clash of Kings in 1998), and having a detailed description of Westeros and Essos would be absolutely wonderful.  Anselm Audley’s Aquasilva Trilogy - Heresy (2001), Inquisition (2002) and Crusade (2003) – is obviously not included in the Dictionary either; and from all of J.K. Rowling’s imagined places, only Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest are included, while I’d personally love to read about Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley or the Ministry of Magic as well. 

What about you? Have you read this book? If not, would you like to? What are your favourite imaginary places? Thanks for reading! And remember: Leave a comment and share!

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