henry copeland: France, where even biographies come buttered: pllqt.it/bpmf2A
French biography is a sub-species of fictionIn an interview with The New York Times in 1989, Mr. Lottman suggested that his work showed an American-like passion for hard facts that he believed some French historians and biographers ignored or fudged in favor of their own intellectual theories. Of his 17 books — published in English and translated into many languages, including French — 15 were about French intellectual, artistic and political life.“The French continue to use the a priori method, which is to know in advance what you want to say about a writer and then find anecdotes to make the story interesting,” he said in the interview with The Times. “And so, I have in front of me very fertile fields and no competition.”He added, “It may seem absurd that you can go back to the 19th century and still find virgin territory, but you do.”His method, he said, was more that of the journalist than the professor. “A lot of so-called French biographers imagine that they can invent things, dreams and thoughts of the figure they are writing about,” he told a French literary journal in 2007.