Autobiographies of Others
Historical Subjects and Literary Fiction
Routledge – 2012 – 226 pages
In this volume, Boldrini examines "heterobiography"—the first-person fictional account of a historic life. Boldrini shows that this mode is widely employed to reflect critically on the historical and philosophical understanding of the human; on individual identity; and on the power relationships that define the subject. In such texts, the grammatical first person becomes the site of an encounter, a stage where the relationships between historical, fictional and authorial subjectivities are played out and explored in the ‘double I’ of author and narrating historical character, of fictional narrator and historical person. Boldrini considers the ethical implications of assuming another’s first-person voice, and the fraught issue of authorial responsibility. Constructions of the body are examined in relation to the material evidence of the subject’s existence. Texts studied include Malouf’s An Imaginary Life, Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Adair’s The Death of the Author, Banti’s Artemisia, Vázquez Montalbán’s Autobiografía del general Franco. Also discussed, among others: Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian, Tabucchi’s The Last Three Days of Fernando Pessoa, Giménez-Bartlett’s Una habitación ajena (A Room of Someone Else’s).
Selected Contents: Introduction: The Portrait of a Voice 1. Heterobiography and The Utopia of Man 2. Heterobiography, Violence, and the Law 3. The Madness of the Documentary and the Aesthetics of the Body 4. The Author? In Theory, Dead: Heterobiography and Responsibility 5. The Polluted Swamp: Heterobiography, Dialogue, and History
Lucia Boldrini is Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.