The autobiographical effort: in search of the person within

Dilvo Ilvo Ristoff


Two major and contradictory forces are at work in what critic
William Andrews (1992) once called “self-life-writing,” his literal translation for “auto/bio/ graphy”: (1) the attempt to register with accuracy, with fidelity to life or “intellectual and emotional veracity,” as Ellen Glasgow (1954) puts it, the so-called “facts” of the past, and (2) the need to place hese “facts” within the frame of purposeful narrative—an effort which invariably leads to the organization of utobiographies around one major question: “What have I lived for?” In the answer to this question, autobiographies seem to find their justification, so that the emphasis upon a few facts out of a world of possibilities may be regarded as support material for the construction of a self intended to be preserved, a self which, to use Nathalie Sarraute’s
words, is very often no more than “a cardboard model that reproduces on a small scale what the buildings, houses, temples, streets, squares and gardens of a submerged town must have been like” (quoted in Leibowitz, p. xvii).


English Language; English


Copyright (c) 2000 Dilvo Ilvo Ristoff

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