This is persecution,” says one of the characters in Alan Bennett’s play, Kafka’s Dick. “No it’s not. It’s biography,” replies her husband.
Bennett is right. Biographies have become a strange kind of modern persecution. Who has emerged unscathed from the recent wave? Eric Gill, Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, Dennis Potter and now Arthur Koestler have all had their reputations damaged, perhaps irreparably, by their biographers.
This is how we like our biographies now. As Bennett’s character says: “Fame is a continuing offence. It leaves you open to trial at any time.” Put this new wave of biographies together with television…
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