An exploration of Maimonides, the medieval philosopher, physician, and religious thinker, author of The Guide of the Perplexed, from one of the world’s foremost bibliophiles
Moses ben Maimon, or Maimonides (1138–1204), was born in Córdoba, Spain. The gifted son of a judge and mathematician, Maimonides fled Córdoba with his family when he was thirteen due to Almohad persecution of all non-Islamic faiths. Forced into a long exile, the family spent a decade in Spain before settling in Morocco. From there, Maimonides traveled to Palestine and Egypt, where he died at Saladin’s court.
As a scholar of Jewish law, a physician, and a philosopher, Maimonides was a singular figure. His work in extracting all the commanding precepts of Jewish law from the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud, interpreting and commenting on them, and translating them into terms that would allow students to lead sound Jewish lives became the model for translating God’s word into a language comprehensible by all. His work in medicine—which brought him such fame that he became Saladin’s personal physician—was driven almost entirely by reason and observation.
In this biography, Alberto Manguel examines the question of Maimonides’ universal appeal—he was celebrated by Jews, Arabs, and Christians alike. In our time, when the need for rationality and recognition of the truth is more vital than ever, Maimonides can help us find strategies to survive with dignity in an uncertain world.
About the Author
Alberto Manguel is an internationally acclaimed reader, writer, and interpreter of a broad array of texts. From 2015 to 2018 he was the director of the National Library of Argentina. His books include The Library at Night and Fabulous Monsters. He lives in Lisbon.
“Manguel is not only a learned scholar, however, but also a gifted writer, and he has produced an elegant and accessible book . . . an eloquent little volume.”—Steven Nadler, Times Literary Supplement
“Manguel introduces the reader to an important thinker who deserves to be far better known. It’s a masterly feat to pack so much in while keeping the language accessible. This is exactly the kind of book that should be on college summer reading lists, a guide not just to a great thinker but to the process of thinking itself.”—Marissa Moss, New York Journal of Books
“In this latest addition to the award-winning Jewish Lives series published by Yale University Press, the reader experiences the joy of discovery alongside Manguel, who places Maimonides’s life and thought in conversation with other great thinkers.”—Brian Hillman, Jewish Book Council
“Illuminating. . . . Manguel employs meticulous detail and textual support to bring alive the ‘learned scientist, brilliant philosopher, and . . . religious devotee’ in a manner that’s both intellectually rigorous and historically vivid.”—Publishers Weekly
“A multifaceted look at one of history’s most consequential minds, whose influence touched thinkers as varied as Thomas Aquinas, Franz Kafka and James Joyce.”—PJ Grisar, The Forward
“In our confusing time, when rationality is fighting for its deserved place, Alberto Manguel’s brilliant book offers a historical and analytical premise for searching for the deserved place in the spiritual confrontation with the sacred.”—Norman Manea, author of The Fifth Impossibility: Essays on Exile and Language