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Authorized and unauthorized in biography

Those who love excessively reading, might end up not living life in its entirety, unless there comes along something it's called “alive literature”. For me this relates to a specific genre, the biography. During modernity, the border between fake-real, possible-impossible disappears. Conveying the life of someone imaginary arouses interest just like a traditional narration would, where we usually remain cast in true events and data. Thrilling or not, real or fictive, a life equals in importance the masterpieces conditioned by it.

Being a great books aficionado, I often walk from library to the bookshop and back, searching for fresh titles or older editions, forgotten on shelves. What you can't find in a place, you'll find somewhere else. I felt lucky, locating in both visited places what I wanted. However a choice needed to be made: would it be an authorized or unauthorized version (well, at least not authorized directly by the author of the biography!)? I wanted to read something bearing an autobiographical imprint, closer to what the subject thought of himself or tried to convince others to believe, too. Should I have tried also a story told by others about the one who captured my focus, even risking to learn not only approved truths? Whose truth is “more” acceptable? If someone forbids writing God knows what about his life, does it mean he deceives? The public considers right to liken public figures with public propriety. If it's the case to buy the biography also, appears the confusion of private property: the book is mine, why shouldn't be also the life it's written about? The collector demands truth and interrogates himself about whom to believe: the One or the Others? “Objective” understood as “righteous is the majority” imposes as a triumphant term. It manages to outnumber and stifle the voice of the fellow who intends describing his life in an autobiography, diary, memoirs… Subjective can be only the character whose biography is read / written. A reader seldom thinks to check up the biography of the biographer, his reasons and qualifications to immortalize good or bad, documented or less documented information about his “object”, meaning someone's life. Speaking of “fictional license”, the writer has a right to interpret. Certainly, if he writes an autobiography, his rights to embellish lessen. His honest man reputation is preferred to an uncontrolled fantasy. A “raving” imagination is disliked or sporadically tasted. In our century bookshelves still abound in “classical” biographies and “serious” authors respect the common sense rules, unleashing moderate metaphors, as much as possible similar to reality (therefore avoiding calumny trials). The advantages of the consumerism allow us to write and rewrite the stories of our lives for many times during our existence. When crazily admiring a rock star, a philosopher, an actor or a political figure, we can buy all editions; does it really matter that at ten years old you don't really have many “memoirs” or that the confessions of a carrier acme do not correspond with those of its decline? The ordinary collector demands truth and exceptional in a single package and so he will get / buy it.

When X exhausts spinning autobiographical yarns or even more, stops being his own spokesman (death, oh, what a relevant cause!), appear also “post-stories”, uncensored and exposing. The straight source is replaced with friends, rivals, entourage, critics and other important referrers, who consider themselves apt to judge, launch verdicts and enlighten the masses of readers with unexpected, juicy accounts, so that we all end up thinking these people could have known the so called subject even better than himself has. We end up believing that, anyhow, the main hero probably wouldn't have approved of spectacular and unfavorable to himself versions and that is a reason more to go buy second hand recollections (excessive, menial sob stuff). So, censorship or not, nobody guarantees the close encounter with the core of the true story.

Playing with words, I dared thinking of the author as an authority. Unfortunately, the observations above show exactly the opposite: to be your own author is perceived as being influenced by selfishness, vanity, disputable attitudes… People won't let you be an unchallenged “author-ity” regarding your own persona. You own just a single sided story, even if it is your life. Could this be a reason for the latest trend that makes nobody write a line about their lives without consulting an army of co-authors, critics, image consultants and other authorities that guarantee the best-selling and a final regularly product?

At long last, I grabbed the authorized version. If I should feel cheated somehow or deprived of essential details, I might get anytime other replica of the same life, uncombed, totally undistorted, maybe slightly flourished, adored by some, abhorred by others!

Copyright © Katiusha Cuculescu, 2004