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'This biography business'

22 October 2007

'Biography is still, all too often, viewed as the skill of finding as many facts as possible and assembling them into a definitive likeness, as if each piece of paper, each interview, were a clue leading to a solution. On such and such a day the subject said this, the next week they did this, in 1935 they wrote this, and voila!, the portrait is finished. You only have to imagine a biographer attempting to write your life, 50 years hence - the idiots with whom they might discuss you, the motives they might attribute to actions that you yourself barely understood - to realize how extraordinarily parlous it is, this biography business.'

Laura Thompson, author of Agatha Christie: An English Mystery, in the Independent on Sunday