On Friday I am going to see Alberto Manguel at the Blue Metropolis literary festival here in Montreal.
I have never read anything of Manguel’s, but every time I’m at The Word bookstore (photo here) I pick up the copy of Black Water: An Anthology of Fantastic Literature, which is always in the same spot on the shelf, and consider buying it. But I never do. So I feel like I owe him, or something.
Manguel has a piece, “Imaginary Islands”, in the new issue of Geist. Here’s a sample:
A few weeks ago, on November 4, 2003, fourteen Kurdish refugees and four Indonesian sailors landed a small ship on the coast of Melville Island, eighty kilometres north of Darwin in the territorial waters of Australia, with the intention of demanding political asylum. Apprised of the news and weary of the tide of asylum seekers, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, took a drastic decision: he decided to cut off Melville Island (together with four thousand other islands belonging to Australia) from the nationâ€™s territory. The gesture was not novel. In 2001 the Australian government had already excluded Christmas Island from its borders so as to be able to deport several hundred illegal immigrants to the islandâ€™s inhospitable beaches. Reading the news, I found myself wondering about this curious method of attempting to solve political problems by altering the map of the world.