Tag Archives: biography

Marcel Schwob’s ‘Imaginary Lives’

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I’m told that Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Livesa collection of twenty-two semi-biographical short stories by Marcel Schwob is, — by virtue of its mixing of known and fantastical elements — the first example of fictional biography.

Is that true?

I decide to delve in.

What about the historicity of other biographies?

I find the genre de viris illustribus, meaning “On Illustrious / Famous Men”, a trope of ancient Roman exemplary literature that was revived during the Italian Renaissance and inspired the assembly or commissioning of series of portraits of outstanding men— and sometimes, by the sixteenth century, of outstanding women as well— with a high didactic purpose. Historicity? Dubious.

I find Parallel Lives by Plutarch, criticized for its lack of judicious discrimination in use of authorities and the consequent errors and inaccuracies.

I find Lives of the Saints and I’m reminded of Veronica’s veil and Stephens poking fun at relics in The Apology of Herodotus.

I’m reminded of the historicity of Jesus.

Once again, the lines between fact and fiction  appear more blurred than one would expect.

So maybe Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives can lay claim to being the first example of purposely fictional biographies?

PS. On the cover of the book shown is Saint George and the Dragon by Uccello, whose biography is also in the book.