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The Art of Literary Biography$
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John Batchelor

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.001.0001

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Biography: Inventing the Truth

Biography: Inventing the Truth

Chapter:
(p.14) (p.15) I Biography: Inventing the Truth
Source:
The Art of Literary Biography
Author(s):

RICHARD HOLMES

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.003.0002

It is suggested that biography is essentially, and by its very origins, disreputable. The four problems (ethics, authenticity, celebrity, and empathy) that do not devalue the modern form of biography are outlined. But they make it complicated, provisional, and to some degree perilous. If biography is to have a future, it has to face up to the problems it has inherited. All these seem to express the original, underlying tension found in its genealogy: invention marrying truth. It is remarkable that the shadow or projection of a fictional form would in other hands become Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It is possible for a good biography to tell the truth, and to enlighten and encourage.

Keywords:   biography, truth, invention, ethics, authenticity, celebrity, empathy

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