The biographical novel is a genre of novel which provides a fictional account of a contemporary or historical person's life. This kind of novel concentrates on the experiences a person had during his lifetime, the people they met and the incidents which occurred. Like other forms of biographical fiction, details are often trimmed or reimagined to meet the artistic needs of the fictional genre, the novel. These reimagined biographies are sometimes called semi-biographical novels, to distinguish the relative historicity of the work from other biographical novels
The genre rose to prominence in the 1930s with best-selling works by authors such as Robert Graves, Thomas Mann, Irving Stone and Lion Feuchtwanger. These books became best-sellers, but the genre was dismissed by literary critics. In later years it became more accepted and has become both a popular and critically accepted genre.
Some biographical novels bearing only superficial resemblance to the historical novels or introducing elements of other genres that supersede the retelling of the historical narrative, for example Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter follows the plot devices of a vampire fiction closely. Biographical fiction often also falls within the genres of historical fiction or alternative history.
Some novels that are known best for their fictional prowess, but include extensive biographical information that is less obvious to readers. A very good example of this kind is Goldsmith's "The Vicar of Wakefield", believed to be the biography of a person the author had known and observed very closely.
For more reflection on the different types of biographical information used in literature, see Biography in literature.
Notable biographical novelsEdit
- The Moon and Sixpence (1919) by W Somerset Maugham - Paul Gauguin
- I Claudius (1934) by Robert Graves - Claudius
- Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns - (1939) by Thomas Mann - Goethe
- The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) by Irving Stone - Michelangelo
- The Revenant (2002) by Michael Punke - US frontiersman Hugh Glass
- The Great Lover (2009) by Jill Dawson - fictional woman's relationship with Rupert Brooke
- The Wettest County in the World (2008) by Matt Bondurant - author's grandfather and his brothers, bootleggers