Category Archives: Biography

A real-life Zweig novella: ‘The Tongue Set Free’ by Elias Canetti

I love Elias Canetti because of his demented 1935 novel ‘Auto da Fé,’ so finally reading his memoir seemed an appropriate finale to my 2016 non-fiction project.  I had previously known absolutely nothing about this Nobel literature laureate’s real life.  With … Continue reading

Posted in Biography, Elias Canetti | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

The Dark Side of American Politics: ‘The Power Broker’ by Robert A Caro (1975)

It takes a long time to read, and even longer to digest Caro’s ‘The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.’  Not including notes, the book is well over 1,000 pages long and you’re left with the … Continue reading

Posted in Biography, New York Reading, Robert A Caro | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

The philosopher traveller: ‘Letters written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark’ by Mary Wollstonecraft (1796)

As the days get shorter, my armchair travelling tends to shift north.  Crisp snow and endless ice can seem a pleasant imaginative contrast to the grey days of rain that mark a London winter and I have plenty of Finnish … Continue reading

Posted in Biography, Mary Wollstonecraft | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

A Harrowing Memoir of the Rwandan Genocide: ‘Cockroaches’ by Scholastique Mukasonga

There are some books that are hard to review because of the weight of tragedy they contain.  There are also times when it’s hard to recommend books because, no matter how important their subject matter, the more details given, the … Continue reading

Posted in African Literature, Biography, Scholastique Mukasonga | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Another Must-Read Biography: ‘Wild Swans’ by Jung Chang (1991)

I first tried reading ‘Wild Swans’ many years ago.  I distinctly remember making it through a description of Jung Chang’s grandmother’s bound and rotting feet (in chapter 1: ‘Three-inch Golden Lillies’).  I stopped reading in the section where the narrator’s mother … Continue reading

Posted in Biography, Jung Chang | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

What a Life! Casanova’s Memoirs

I’m a little late with the review of my 6th non-fiction book this year.  In my defence, even in this abridged version, Casanova’s ‘History of My Life’ weighs in at well over 1,000 pages.  Few autobiographies could sustain such detail, here … Continue reading

Posted in Biography, Giacomo Casanova, Italian Literature | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

New Teffi Translations (part 2): ‘Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea’

I had originally intended to review ‘Memories’ and ‘Rasputin and other Ironies’ in the same post, but that was only because I’d forgotten how uncontrollably enthusiastic I get about Teffi’s writing.  You can read how much I loved ‘Rasputin’ here, … Continue reading

Posted in Biography, Reading in translation, Russian Reading, Teffi | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments