June 14, 2014
ORWELL'S IS HIS NOVELS:
Masterpiece: Nabokov Looks Back at Life Before 'Lolita' : The author's early years, in his own words. (JOSEPH EPSTEIN, June 13, 2014, WSJ)
Few are the truly great autobiographies: Benvenuto Cellini's, Jean-Jacques Rousseau's, Ben Franklin's, Edward Gibbon's, John Stuart Mills's, Henry Adams's, possibly Gertrude Stein's, and not many more. Nor ought one to be surprised at the paucity of their number. Of all forms of literature, autobiography is perhaps the most difficult to bring off successfully. Maintaining candor without lapsing into cant or self-adulation is only one of the difficulties autobiography presents. George Orwell underscored the point: "Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats."To write superior autobiography one requires not only literary gifts, which are obtainable with effort, but an intrinsically interesting life, which is less frequently available. Those who possess the one are frequently devoid of the other, and vice versa. Only a fortunate few are able to reimagine their lives, to find themes and patterns that explain a life, in the way successful autobiography requires.Vladimir Nabokov was among them.
At a minimum, such a list should include The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Witness by Whittaker Chambers and False Spring by Pat Jordan.Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2014 7:36 AM