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The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi
Harcourt, 755 pages


Paul Brill (1554-1629)
The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi
Alberto Manguel is a writer, translator, and editor of international reputation; his many books include the award-winning novel News From a Foreign Country Came, and the short story anthologies Black Water, The Gates of Paradise, and (with Craig Stephenson) In Another Part of the Forest. Born in Buenos Aires, Manguel has travelled extensively and is now a Canadian citizen.

Gianni Guadalupi is a translator of many classics into Italian, an editor, and a passionate book collector.

ISFDB Bibliography: Alberto Manguel
ISFDB Bibliography: Gianni Guadalupi

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi's The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is a tribute to the collective human imagination in more ways than one. This 755-page book contains more than 1200 imaginary places ranging from Homer's Aiaia to J.K. Rowling's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Many of the locations included come from much more obscure sources (Tommaso Porcacchi's Le isole piu' famose del mondo); however, the more famous are also well represented (J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Shire").

Manguel lays out some of the criteria for inclusion in a brief introduction. Locations must be wholly imaginary, rather than merely versions of real places. The Wessex featured in the novels of Thomas Hardy may not be real, but it is firmly based on the world in which Hardy lived, as opposed to the Llygeryb of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood.

The authors treat all of the locations they describe in a serious fashion, taking their information from the books and stories that originated the ideas. Personal opinions and additions are kept to a minimum where they appear at all. However, because the authors make use of a wide variety of entertaining and thoughtful texts as their source material, the entries are both informative and entertaining.

One of the incredible things about The Dictionary of Imaginary Places are the places which are not included. The "overlooked" fantastic lands include many of the places in which modern fantasy is set. Although the reader will find several references to Ursula K. Le Guin's "Earthsea" or Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park," the reader will look in vain for descriptions of Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" or John Myers Myers's "Commonwealth." However, many of these places are already very familiar to readers of science fiction and fantasy and may not need entries in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places.

Perhaps the greatest strength of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is the inclusion of bibliographic material. If a reader is intrigued by a location, a quick look at the end of the entry will indicate who created the location and in which books it appears. While several of these works of literature are in non-English languages, the reader will have some idea about where to find more information about the lands as the original authors conceived them. The book also contains a well-crafted index with listings by author and work cited to make retrieval of information easier.

In May 1999, I reviewed Brian Stableford's The Dictionary of Science Fiction PlacesThe Dictionary of Imaginary Places is a similar reference, although it seems to have a better feel for its audience, not requiring an explanation of the basics of the field to the reader, but instead merely presenting the information. Manguel spends a good deal of time explaining the criteria of what would be included (although criteria for exclusions would have been useful and intriguing as well).

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places is an entertaining book which gives brief synopses of a wide range of fantastic (but not science fictional) realms which may provide jaded (or not-so-jaded) readers with a launching point for the discovery of new authors, new books and new worlds.

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.


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