Un­done by for­mu­laic

Frank Camp­bell

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

BI­OG­RA­PHY gets a good press, but isn’t it just sex, lies and au­dio­tape? Doesn’t it merely im­pose ar­ti­fi­cial or­der on chaos? How can it con­vey nu­ance and com­plex mo­ti­va­tion? Isn’t bi­og­ra­phy just an aca­demic con­ceit, a ver­balling of the de­fence­less sub­ject? Does it not mas­quer­ade as a con­vinc­ing, co­her­ent nar­ra­tive when it is noth­ing more than a mass of sup­po­si­tions and eli­sions? Isn’t life a Churchillian mys­tery, guarded by a rid­dle and wrapped in the enigma of time?

Beware the bi­og­ra­pher, that un­in­vited familiar who knows more about you than you your­self even be­fore that first, tense meet­ing. How much worse when the smil­ing as­sas­sin is brought into your life and home, tooth­brush and all, by your ego­cen­tric spouse. The slow, aw­ful re­al­i­sa­tion that the de­tec­tive al­ready knows your dark se­crets but de­mands a con­fes­sion re­gard­less. The bi­og­ra­pher as in­quisi­tor, agent provo­ca­teur and, ul­ti­mately, lib­er­a­tor.

The Bi­og­ra­pher asks whether we can shed the past and be­come some­one else. Greer Gor­don, also known as Gigi Svo­boda, changes names and coun­tries. Hus­band Mis­cha is the model. He ap­par­ently lives solely in the present, his murky past al­chemised in his mys­te­ri­ous art. The drama em­anates from the bi­og­ra­pher, the Grin Reaper who wipes the smile off ev­ery­one’s face. He ar­rives bear­ing Greer’s past in his voice recorder. No won­der artists hire ha­giog­ra­phers to write their phony, com­mer­cial bi­ogra­phies. It’s a great idea for a novel. In 1979, 30ish Greer works in a trendy art gallery at St Kilda, Melbourne. Mar­ried a few weeks to Char­lie, a charm­ing ur­bane suit, Greer falls spec­tac­u­larly in love with Czech emi­gre painter Mis­cha Svo­boda. They promptly flee to Syd­ney, dump­ing Char­lie and Mis­cha’s loyal gallery for­ever. Wan­der­ing the world for years, they fetch up at the idyllic Tus­can re­treat of Rollo, an oc­to­ge­nar­ian ex­pat painter ( who bears an un­canny re­sem­blance to Jef­frey Smart) and his prag­matic com­pan­ion Guy, a vi­gneron.

The worm in­vad­ing this co­coon is Tony, a smooth LA pro­fes­sional bi­og­ra­pher on the make. His Machi­avel­lian pur­suit of Greer, who is the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.