Biographies and Autobiographies occupy an important place in Literature for various reasons. Authors used this genre to communicate their worldviews to people. Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth is an excellent example. My Truth by Indira Gandhi is yet another example of communicating the message of an individual to a larger world. Jivansmriti (Reminiscences) of Rabindranath Tagore narrates his early years of life, while in Toward Freedom: the Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru Nehru writes to his “own countrymen and women.” Nirad C. Chaudhuri’s The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, published in 1951, stands apart as a great master-piece, combining personal life experiences with a strong motivated worldview (“the conditions in which an Indian grew to manhood in the early decades of this century” [20th century].
Rationale and Justification for Writing Autobiography
These leaders have also debated on the need or otherwise for writing such works.
Jawaharlal Nehru writes in his Autobiography: “… this account is wholly one-sided and, inevitably, egotistical; many important happenings have been completely ignored and many important persons, who shaped events, have hardly been mentioned. In a real survey of past events this would have been inexcusable, but a personal account can claim this indulgence.”
Gandhi justified writing an autobiography with these words:
But a God-fearing friend had his doubts, which he shared with me on my day of silence. 'What has set you on this adventure? he asked. 'Writing an autobiography is a practice peculiar to the West. I know of nobody in the East having written one, except amongst those who have come under Western influence. And what will you write? Supposing you reject tomorrow the things you hold as principles today, or supposing you revise in the future your plans of today, is it not likely that the men who shape their conduct on the authority of your word, spoken or written, may be misled. Don't you think it would be better not to write anything like an autobiography, at any rate just yet?'
This argument had some effect on me. But it is not my purpose to attempt a real
autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography. But I shall not mind, if every page of it speaks only of my experiments. I believe, or at any rate flatter myself with the belief, that a connected account of all these experiments will not be without benefit to the reader.
Language Medium for Major Autobiographies and Biographies
Indira Gandhi’s work is a compilation of her writings in a manner that the book has an autobiographical format. Nehru wrote his Autobiography in English. Gandhi and Tagore wrote their autobiographies first in their mother tongues (Gujarati and Bengali respectively) and then they sort of translated or recreated their works in English. Nirad Chaudhuri wrote his celebrated work in English.
Biographies in Indian Writing in English
There are many biographies written by Indian authors. These biographies cover many personalities from every field: politics, science, sports, cinema, drama, religion, literature, etc. Indeed, biography writing is a very popular pursuit among Indian writers in English and other Indian languages. Sahitya Akademi has brought out a number of biographies of varied quality.
Controversial nature of Biographies and Autobiographies
Both biographies and autobiographies may raise controversies of various types: political, social, familial, regional, religious, etc.
A recent biography-like book on Muhammad Ali Jinnah by Jaswant Singh (Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence) raised a hue and cry among Jaswant Singh’s own party members. Earlier in recent times, actor Om Puri’s biography Unusual Hero by his wife created strong and deep controversies. Such controversies arise out of revelations in public of private personal acts and thoughts that may involve others and thus hurt the feelings, careers and interests of people referred to. It looks like that the biographer or the autobiographer never asks the permission of others to narrate the incidents which involve these “friends”, etc.!
Autobiography and Biography versus Fiction Writing
Writing an autobiography or biography is quite different from writing a novel or short story or any type of material that aims at catering to the literary sensibility of its readers. Facts and related, relevant and appropriate interpretation of facts and events become the hall mark of autobiography and biography, in some sense.
Narration is usually straightforward following the course of events and implications presented in these works. Authors of fiction have greater freedom and employ many techniques of presentation in their narratives. Hidden and explicit metaphors, lack of any explicit didactic conversations, creating curiosity to look forward to the next event, conflict, confrontation, resolution, etc. play an important role here. Characterization and characters follow a different course in fiction than in autobiography or biography. Actually, most events narrated in biographies and even autobiographies are already public knowledge. On the other hand, fiction offers a progressive revelation of unknown events, etc.
However, autobiographies and biographies have their own aspects difficult to master. Even the authors of these works are burdened with the responsibility of ensuring that the readers are with them and are comfortable with the journey they choose to undertake with the authors.
The Goal of This Special Volume
The goal of this Special Volume is to make a survey of some of the major autobiographies and biographies written in English. It is assumed that work should try to bring put some hidden fact or incident of the life of the person.
How to go for it?
1. Choose an autobiography or biography.
2. Describe the content briefly.
3. Focus on the structure of the chosen autobiography or biography: introduction, chapterization, language and style, narrative techniques, idioms and metaphors, their justification for writing the autobiography or biography and how this justification is revealed in their works, clarity of language and thought, effect on readers, readability of the text, gaps in information, gaffes, etc. This is only suggestive of what you can do. You need to be creative and imaginative to work on your plan of research, description, analysis and interpretation, conclusion, etc.
4. You may also make a comparative or contrastive of two or more autobiographies or biographies available in English and in other languages.
Please write to the editors of this special volume for any clarification you need.
CALL FOR RESEARCH PAPERS ON
Revelation of Truths:
Critical Perspectives on Autobiographies and Biographies in English
Dr. Arvind Nawale,
(Head, Dept of English, Shivaji Mahavidhylaya, Udgir, Dist: Latur (M.S.)
(Lecturer in English, Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat (Gujarat)
No Contribution/Subscription fees. Papers will be accepted and published free of cost and only on basis of quality and each contributor will get a free complimentary copy from publisher
We are glad to inform you that we are going to edit jointly a book of research papers on Autobiographies and Biographies in English tentatively titled as Revelation of Truths: Critical Perspectives on Autobiographies and Biographies in English. Authentic, scholarly and unpublished research papers are invited from scholars/faculty/researchers/writers/professors from all over the world for this volume.
The volume will be published with an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) by a renowned publisher from India.
Thematic Focus of the Volume:
The articles should be on any theme of confession, revelation of truth on any work of English Autobiographies and Biographies.
● Paper size: A4, Font & size: Times New Roman 12, Spacing: Single line, Margin of 1 inch on all four sides.
● Title of the paper: bold, title case (Capitalize each word), centered.
● Text of the paper: justified. Font & size: Times New Roman 12.
● References: Please follow MLA style (Only Author-Date or Number System) strictly. Don’t use Foot Notes. Instead use End Notes.
● Titles of books: Italics.
● Titles of articles from journals and books: “quoted”.
● Articles should be submitted as MS Word 2003-2007attachments only.
● The paper should not usually exceed 14 pages maximum, 5 pages minimum in single spacing.
● Each paper must be accompanied by i) A declaration that it is an original work and has not been published anywhere else or send for publication ii) Abstract of paper about 100-200 words and iii) A short bio-note of the contributor(s) indicating name, institutional affiliation, brief career history, postal address, mobile number and e-mail, in a single attachment. Please don’t send more attachments. Give these things below your paper and send all these things in a separate single MS-Word attachment.
● The papers submitted should evince serious academic work contributing new knowledge or innovative critical perspectives on the subject explored.
Mode of Submission:
Each contributor is advised to send full paper with brief bio-note, declaration and abstract as a single MS-Word email attachments to email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org up to 15th April 2012. The contributors are also supposed to submit one hard copy of (i) Full paper (ii) A declaration and (iii) Abstract and (iv) Brief bio-note typed in above mentioned format to the postal address given bellow. One hard copy is required for our record. Without hard copy, no paper will be considered for publication.
All submissions will be sent for blind peer reviewing. Final selection will be made only if the papers are recommended for publication by the reviewers. The details of the selection of your paper will be informed to you telephonically or on your email. The editor has the right to make necessary editing of selected papers for the sake of conceptual clarity and formatting. Non-selected papers will not be sent back to the contributor in any form. So, all contributors are advised to keep a copy of their submission with them. Each contributor will get a free complimentary copy from publisher but in case of joint paper, only first writer will get free copy. Overseas contributors will get a soft copy (pdf) of their papers with details of ISBN specification.
Contributors are advised to adhere to strict academic ethics with respect to acknowledgment of original ideas from others. The editors will not be responsible for any such lapse of the contributor. All submissions should be original and must be accompanied by a declaration that it is an original work and has not been published anywhere else. It will be your sole responsibility for such lapses, if any. Neither editor, nor publisher will be responsible for it.
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