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How can you describe a ‘whole life’? Booker Prize-winner A. S. Byatt conjures a sparking, colour-filled novel about one man’s attempt to do so.
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Published: 01 June 2001
Genre: Modern fiction
In this witty, Borges-like Novel, A. S. Byatt weaves a dazzling fiction out of one man's search for fact. Fed up with stultifying criticism, Phineas G. decides to study the messiness of 'real life'. Doing nothing by halves he sets out to write a biography of a great biographer. But a 'whole life' is hard to find. How do we put the idea of a person together? Everywhere he looks he finds fragments and gaps: disconnected typescripts, bones and husks, boxes of marbles, collections of photographs. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved.Phineas feels he is hunting shadows. Like a shaman flying across the globe, his mind tracks the journeys of his subjects to the deserts of Africa and the maelstroms of the Arctic, where the shapes of myth meet the patterns of science. He meets others building wholes from bits and pieces: taxonomists, ecologists, even travel agents offering the trip of your dreams. In the process he also puzzles out his own future - but which woman will guide him out of the labyrinth? Tantalising, comic and rueful, The Biographer's Tale is a modern delight, a colour-filled novel of detection and desire.
This novel takes the reader somewhere rare and high
A voluptuous tale
The relation of language to things, the arrangement of those things in the world, and exposure of the tricks of literary composition are not just occasional intruders in this novel, they are its very subject
Times Literary Review
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'An extraordinary book which takes the reader into a world of obsession and mystery ...
The incomparable imagination of Jorge Luis Borges runs wild in this kaleidoscopic ...
A.S. Byatt is internationally known as a novelist, short-story writer and critic. Her novels include Possession (winner of the Booker Prize in 1990), and the quartet of The Virgin in the Garden, Still ...