'And yet stories, even the best and truest, can't save us from our own folly. Stories can't protect us from suffering and error, from natural and artificial catastrophes, from our own suicidal greed. The only thing they can do is ... offer consolation for suffering and words to name our experience. Stories can tell us who we are ... and suggest ways of imagining a future that, without calling for comfortable happy endings, may offer us ways of remaining alive, together, on this much-abused earth.'
Based on Canada's 2007 CBC Massey Lectures (to be broadcast in Australia by ABC Radio National in April 2008), Alberto Manguel's The City of Words takes a fresh look at the rise of violent intolerance in our societies. We strive to build societies with sets of values all citizens can agree on. But something has gone wrong: race riots in France, political murder in the Netherlands, bombings in Britain and Bali - are these symptoms of a multicultural experiment gone awry? Why is it so difficult for us to live together when the alternatives are demonstrably horrifying?
With his trademark wit and erudition, Alberto Manguel suggests a fresh approach: we should look at what visionaries, poets, novelists, essayists and filmmakers have to say about building societies. Perhaps the stories we tell hold secret keys to the human heart. From Cassandra to Jack London, the Epic of Gilgamesh to the computer Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Don Quixote to Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Manguel draws fascinating and revelatory parallels between the personal and political realities of our present-day world and those of myth, legend and story.