Writing a Biography Or Memoir You Should Refuse Be a Tabular Rasa

When writing a biography or memoir the biographer should lay aside all partnership and prejudice and proceed in the pure love of truth. Not that the biographer must become a tabular rasa [tabular rasa is a Latin phrase referring to someone whose mind is similar to a clean slate, meaning that the mind is free…

When writing a biography or memoir the biographer should lay aside all partnership and prejudice and proceed in the pure love of truth. Not that the biographer must become a tabular rasa [tabular rasa is a Latin phrase referring to someone whose mind is similar to a clean slate, meaning that the mind is free of misconceptions or previous notions].

No man or woman should attempt to cast off the life influences which made him or her what he or she is as a unique individual. By all means and by common consent most readers expect the biographer to sympathize with his or her subject, to choreograph a bit some of the defects a bit – but not over doing it. That is why a biographer that rubbish his / her subject does not get anywhere.

But having said that by all means the biographer or memoir writer should be guided by truthfulness and seek to remain close to true as possible to the objective fact. The biographer should do justice to every presentation and description of issues or events or affairs in the life of his or her subject. Quite the biographer or memoir writer should rise above to sees all points in the circumference.

A biography is not a hip of skeletons, but a painstaking intelligent construction of a living monument that people will relish reading and be illuminated – it should be that a person after reading a biography should feel empowered having learned from the mistakes and great principles in the life of a fellow human being. In short the reader should have a clear human picture that is based on the perspectives the biographer has provided from the facts collected. For this to be successfully achieved the biographer should be natural and not rob himself or herself by withholding his / her personal experiences in the name of objectivity.

While I was writing a biography of Eugen Weber we decided to title the book Eugen Weber the Greatest Historian of Our Times, many people who read the manuscript accused us of sculpting or fashioning an idol. We reasserted our views by indicating that we are humans and this is how we see the life and works of Eugen Weber. No, No; a biographer should resist being a tabular rasa, as long as whatever you say is backed up with facts you should not be afraid to state your views and convictions about your subject.