I love reading biographies. They feed my voyeuristic tendencies. A good biography digs into the secrets of a known person’s private life. People hide an awful lot behind their social façade. Bullying in the office, stealing and other crimes, violence at home, child abuse. Most interesting, of course, are the love affairs.
But should one want to delve into a person’s past for the sheer joy of learning the gory details? Shouldn’t a person’s life remain private?
At the moment I am reading a biography of Marguérite Duras by Laura Adler. Duras has published numerous novels that deal with episodes in her life. They are her stories, manipulated by her. She would have liked her readers to believe that they are true stories, but in a number of instances the biography, wherever possible, reveals a markedly different version of that truth.
Things are never what they seem. Not with Duras, or anybody else. They are always more complex, more intriguing. The biography gives an insight into how Duras, as an author, has created the life she would have wanted out of the cards that were dealt her. She has changed the facts more blatantly than others. But we all do it. That is what makes reading biographies so interesting. In a way they hold up a mirror to one’s own life.
This insight overrides my feeling of embarrassment about peeking under the blankets to see the things the author would have liked to have kept undercover.
A good biography makes fascinating reading, and I will continue to enjoy it.