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2022.06.07 有史以来最好的五本传记作品

发表于 2022-7-6 18:57:27 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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Economist Reads | Biographies
Our obituaries editor picks the five best biographies ever written
Reflections on one’s own life and the lives of others, from Suetonius to Dylan Thomas
BKMA71 Inside of shed where Dylan Thomas wrote many of his poems Laugharne Wales UK
Jun 7th 2022 (Updated Jun 22nd 2022)


This article is part of our Summer reads series. Visit our collection to discover “The Economist reads” guides, guest essays and more seasonal distractions.

Although i write biographies, as well as mini-biographies week by week in the form of The Economist’s obituaries, I’m not a great reader of them. Too often they leave me dissatisfied, feeling that despite heroic accumulations of detail I still have no real sense of the spirit, which is the life, of the subject. Autobiography, on the other hand, is my chief resource. It may be highly selective, too rose-tinted, or out-and-out distorted, but those failings in themselves are part of the life. Both sorts of biographies are on my list.

The Twelve Caesars (composed c. 120ad). By Suetonius. Translated by Robert Graves. Penguin Classics; 464 pages; $16 and £10.99

An extraordinary series of portraits of the men who, in their time, were the most powerful in the world. Suetonius, far from being fawning, describes his subjects unsparingly. Among the palace coups and military campaigns come sudden, arresting, personal details, all the more vivid for his deadpan style. It’s impossible to forget Tiberius rubbing a man’s face with a crab, and getting small boys to nibble at him as he swam off Capri; or Tiberius, inquiring of literary visitors what song the Sirens sang; or Augustus’s regular demands that things should be done “quicker than boiled asparagus”.

Brief Lives (c 1670-1697). By John Aubrey. Boydell Press; 336 pages; $29.95 and £16.99

Aubrey’s work includes many of the most prominent figures of a fascinating age: Francis Bacon, Robert Hooke, Edmund Halley, John Milton. It feels like the work of an antiquarian in a dressing gown, fishing up from memory snippets of past conversations, sightings, chats and gossip, betraying its origins in letters between him and his collaborator Anthony Wood. Some observations are first-hand; most are not. His mini-biographies are a chaotic mixture of achievements, very often in the sciences, with vivid glimpses of oddness: Thomas Hobbes in bed, writing out mathematical calculations on his knees and on the sheets; Bacon riding in his carriage in the rain, to enjoy “the Nitre in the Aire”. The whole world of the 17th century springs delightfully to life in them.

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The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals (1797-1798 and 1800-1803). By Dorothy Wordsworth. Oxford University Press; 368 pages; $12.95 £8.99

These wonderful diaries drive any feminist mad: a fine, talented female mind totally devoted to baking pies, ironing, sock-mending and generally waiting on her brother, the great poet. She does this without a murmur, and despite her headaches, because she is clearly in love with him; for her, it is simply a privilege. In one entry she lies a little way from him, out on the fells, rejoicing in her very nearness to his silent thinking. But it is she who notices the daffodils first, on Thursday April 15th 1802.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). By James Joyce. Penguin Classics; 384 pages; $11 and £8.99

This is autobiography as great literature, delivered in a voice that is at first a child’s, then a boy’s, then that of the young poet determined to live by “silence, exile and cunning”. Though Joyce wears the alias of Stephen Dedalus, the work developed from his attempts to write an autobiographical novel, and there is never much doubt that this is his own tortured youth in Dublin, especially at the Jesuit-run Belvedere College. There has never been a better description of the alternating beauties and horrors of orthodox Catholicism to a teenage mind.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940). By Dylan Thomas. New Directions; 123 pages; $13.95. W&N; £8.00

A conscious riposte to Joyce as far as the title goes, and again biography as literature, this time the full rollicking rampaging voice that sounds through Thomas’s poems and in “Under Milk Wood”. It tracks in ten short stories the life and adventures of an unruly boy and cub reporter roaming the Swansea streets, learning how to drink, smoke and womanise. As in the poem “Fern Hill” (“I was young and easy under the apple boughs”), life is remembered through the transcending eye of the poet, which may be the truest lens of all. ■

Our obituaries editor is the author of several biographies, including these two:

Orpheus: The Song of Life. By Ann Wroe. Overlook; 272 pages; $26. Jonathan Cape; £17.99

An evocation of the first poet’s lasting power to inspire.

Pontius Pilate. By Ann Wroe. 432 pages; Modern Library; $18. Published in Britain as “Pilate: The biography of an invented man”; Vintage; £14.99

The life of the Roman governor who crucified Jesus, told through Roman sources and reimaginings in later ages.

Do you have your own recommendations? Send them to with the subject line “Biographies” and your name, city and country. We will publish a selection of readers’ suggestions.

BKMA71 迪伦-托马斯写了很多诗的棚屋内部 英国威尔士劳厄恩
2022年6月7日 (2022年6月22日更新)

这篇文章是我们夏季阅读系列的一部分。请访问我们的文集,了解 "经济学人读物 "指南、特邀文章和更多季节性分心的文章。



一系列非同寻常的人物画像,这些人在他们的时代是世界上最有权势的。苏埃托尼乌斯非但没有献媚,反而毫不留情地描述他的对象。在宫廷政变和军事行动中,出现了一些突然的、引人注目的个人细节,这些细节因其死板的风格而更加生动。我们不可能忘记提比略用螃蟹擦着一个人的脸,让小男孩在他游离卡普里岛时咬他;也不可能忘记提比略向文人游客询问塞壬唱的是什么歌;更不可能忘记奥古斯都经常要求把事情办得 "比煮芦笋还快"。


奥布里的作品包括这个迷人时代的许多最杰出人物。弗朗西斯-培根、罗伯特-胡克、埃德蒙-哈雷、约翰-米尔顿。这本书给人的感觉就像一个穿着睡衣的古董商的作品,从记忆中捞起过去的对话、见闻、聊天和八卦的片段,暴露了它在他和他的合作者安东尼-伍德之间的信件中的起源。有些观察是第一手的,大多数不是。他的迷你传记是一个混乱的成就混合物,通常是在科学领域,并有生动的奇特的一瞥。托马斯-霍布斯躺在床上,在膝盖上和床单上写出数学计算;培根在雨中乘坐马车,享受 "Aire中的Nitre"。整个17世纪的世界在这些作品中愉快地涌现出来。

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Grasmere和Alfoxden日记(1797-1798和1800-1803)。作者:多萝西-华兹华斯。牛津大学出版社;368页;12.95美元 8.99英镑



这是一部作为伟大文学的自传,以一个孩子的声音,然后是一个男孩的声音,然后是一个决心以 "沉默、流放和狡猾 "为生的年轻诗人的声音发表。虽然乔伊斯化名为斯蒂芬-德达鲁斯(Stephen Dedalus),但这部作品是在他试图写一部自传体小说的基础上发展起来的,而且从来没有人怀疑这是他自己在都柏林,特别是在耶稣会管理的贝尔维迪尔学院的受折磨的青年时代。对于正统的天主教在青少年心目中交替出现的美丽和恐怖,从来没有过更好的描述。




Orpheus: 生命之歌》。作者:安-沃罗。Overlook;272页;26美元。Jonathan Cape;17.99英镑




你有自己的推荐书目吗?请将它们发送至,标题为 "传记 "并注明您的姓名、城市和国家。我们将公布读者建议的部分内容。
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