Synopses & Reviews
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 things and facts.' 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: bones and husks, boxes of marbles, collections of tools and randomly assorted photographs. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved.
Phineas feels he is hunting shadows. Like a shaman flying across the globe, his mind tracks his subject to African deserts and Arctic maelstroms, 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 what will guide him out of the labyrinth?
Tantalizing, comic and rueful, The Biographer's Tale is a modern delight.
About the Author
A.S. Byatt, author of the Booker Prize-winning Possession, is one of Britain's leading novelists. Her recent, highly-acclaimed Babel Tower was the last part of a trilogy of the post-war years which began with The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life. Her latest collection of short stories was Elementals (1998). She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1999.