HYDERABAD: There’s something enticing about books on and by prominent personalities . The world in such books is straightforward even if the same can’t be said about authenticity. Thanks to a series of memoirs and biographies that have hit book stores this season — from AB de Villiers’ autobiography to biographies like ‘Asha Bhosle-A Musical Biography’, ‘Rekha - The Untold Story’, ‘Ace Against Odds-Sania Mirza’ (co-authored by Imran Mirza), ‘Feroze Gandhi: The Forgotten Gandhi’ and ‘Half Lion’ on P. V. Narasimha Rao — they’ve ushered life back into the non-fiction genre. This time around, they have managed to be more reader-friendly than before.
“People are embracing the fact that they get to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. This has also got to do with readers maturing over time, where they find the non-fiction world more enticing,” feels Rajeneesh, a bibiophile in the city.
Author Jatin Kuberkar reasons that most of these biographies and memoirs work with readers because of their enriching experience in their particular arenas. With other personalities, biographies are working when the focus is on specific episodes of their life, he adds.
In most of the above-cited cases, the authors have painted a simplistic picture (in terms of the vocabulary, jargon) of their lives to the reader.
Does that affect the quality? Rajeneesh hesitantly agrees to the same. For instance, he cites how Half Lion makes for an excellent account of P V Narasimha Rao for a person who’s not totally immersed into politics. Justifying that he’s not singling out a particular case, he states, “When you try to cater to a larger crowd, the essence is bound to be lost somewhere.”
Anjana, a literature student at HCU though gives a different spin to the aspect. “The fact that someone is writing a biography itself results in an amount of simplification. This is one reason biographies make for fascinating reads,” she confesses. In short a biography is a capsule of an entire life.
“There are many autobiographies of young people , be it someone notorious or a Youtube star. These books cultivate an interest in reading biographies,,” Anjana adds. Do salacious tid-bits or controversial side of lives contribute to higher sales? “You are surprised when someone presents a darker side of a famous personality but it whets the curiosity to know if that black patch is inded true,” she states.
Author Vinay Sitapati is coasting along with the popularity of ‘Half Lion’. “There was very little writing on Narasimha Rao and there has been a curious academic silence on him. His own book ends in 1973. So I had a clean slate. But the biographies I read (Robert Caro and Robert Dallack on Lyndon Johnson, Inder Malhotra on Indira Gandhi, Frank Moraes on Nehru, and Ezra Vogel on Deng Xiaoping) told me how to deal with two tensions inevitable in biography writing. First, how much do you focus on the man, and how much on the times? Second, how much of the subject's personality is a product of his upbringing/underlying social forces etc., and how much of it is inborn virtue that is not explained by his experiences. I was very sensitive to these two tensions.”