The Biographer's Tale by A.S. Byatt

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From the award-winning author of Possession comes an ingenious novel about love and literary sleuthing: a dazzling fiction woven out of one man’s search for fact.

Here is the story of Phineas G. Nanson, a disenchanted graduate student who decides to escape the world of postmodern literary theory and immerse himself in the messiness of “real life” by writing a biography of a great biographer. In a series of adventures that are by turns intellectual and comic, scientific and sensual, Phineas tracks his subject to the deserts of Africa and the maelstrom of the Arctic. Along the way he comes to rely on two women, one of whom may be the guide he needs out of the dizzying labyrinth of his research and back into his own life. A tantalizing yarn of detection and desire, The Biographer’s Tale is a provocative look at “truth” in biography and our perennial quest for certainty.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About A.S. Byatt

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A.S. Byatt is the author of fifteen works of fiction including the Booker Prize-winning Possession, The Biographer's Tale and, most recently, the Man Booker-shortlisted The Children's Book. A distinguished critic as well as a writer of fiction, A.S. Byatt was appointed CBE in 1990 and DBE in 1999. Visit for more information.
Published May 15, 2001 by Vintage. 320 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Though this and other similarly loopy sequences are great fun to read, Byatt offers relatively little story, and a top-heavy load of arch speculation about the conflict between Art (Vera) and Life (Fulla), the likelihood that biographers (especially the resourceful Destry-Scholes) invent as much ...

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Publishers Weekly

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To his dismay, Nanson discovers that the revered Destry-Scholes has taken great liberties with the facts, inventing false incidents and inserting imaginary details.

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Book Reporter

Instead, he rails to the universe that he will now simply Joe Friday himself into working only with "facts" --- so he spends days mining the life of Victorian traveler, writer, and diplomat Elmer Bole, only to decide that he is destined to write a biography of Bole's own biographer, Scholes Destr...

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Biographer's Tale

AV Club

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Presented with the subject of the contemporary pursuit of knowledge, Byatt has crafted a book of chaos: carefully orchestrated and entertaining chaos, but chaos nonetheless.

Apr 19 2002 | Read Full Review of The Biographer's Tale

London Review of Books

Screwing his courage to the sticking place, Phineas G.

Jun 27 2002 | Read Full Review of The Biographer's Tale

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