Damien Hirst to write his autobiography
The nineteenth century literary critic Charles Augustin Saint-Beuve believed that to fully understand a writer and his work, one must have a thorough comprehension of his life. His biography could appropriately frame the context of his artistic endeavours.
Marcel Proust disagreed. The French novelist argued that a biography and an autobiography for that matter can never deliver an accurate account of the protagonist. Intentionally or by accident, we forget, we lie and we reshape our unique narrative.
V.S. Naipaul agreed as much in his 2001 acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, saying that Proust’s theory on the matter should be considered whenever we read a biography of a writer or “anyone who depends on what we call inspiration”.
“All the details of the life and the quirks and the friendships can be laid out for us, but the mystery of the writing will remain,” he continued. “No amount of documentation, however fascinating, can take us there. The biography of a writer – or even the autobiography – will always have this incompleteness.”
This deficiency of life is something we don’t necessarily associate with the contemporary British artist Damien Hirst, who seems to have been a regular character in the cultural history of the country since the mid-nineties. Though certainly not (yet) a national treasure, he nevertheless comes across as a modern Brit.
He has just confirmed that he will write his autobiography, calling on the support of ghostwriter James Fox, who four years ago helped the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards tell a candid account of his very rock and roll existence in Life.
Penguin Books, which has secured the exclusive publishing rights, said that Hirst’s autobiography would be just as ‘radical’ as popstar Morrissey’s own offering, which was well-received for its candour.
The artist, famous for works such as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living and For the Love of God, said that he was pleased to be working with Penguin, describing it as a “cool and creative publisher”.
“They care about all their readers from top to bottom and are not afraid of pushing the boundaries,” he added, offering very little detail about what his autobiography would cover. That was left to Mr Fox, who seems to be very excited about this commission.
“As well as the well-known arc of the boy from Leeds who took on the art establishment, it will include a barely known first act — a black and hilarious account of Hirst’s youth, growing up in a semi-criminal, often violent milieu, while sharing with his friends an unlikely, but binding passion for art,” he said in an official news release.
Naturally, such a statement intrigues, suggestive as it is of the autobiography, which will be released in 2015, being full of shocks, surprises and sensational disclosures, which would, potentially, go unwritten if not for a ghostwriter, who is charged with probing deep beneath the facade of Hirst and getting to the heart of this fascinating man.
Though that account will not be a perfect tale, it will help to flesh out the artist and give a more rounded impression of his transformation into a global and controversial iconoclast. If that doesn’t suffice, then look to his work. These are backstage passes into the heart and soul of Hirst.
“I will say I am the sum of my books,” V.S. Naipaul said during his speech. “Each book, intuitively sensed and, in the case of fiction, intuitively worked out, stands on what has gone before, and grows out of it. I feel that at any stage of my literary career it could have been said that the last book contained all the others.”
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