The Biography It is a literary genre that narrates in the third person the life of a person, generally public and recognized. For example: Lincoln, by Cesar Vidal; Steve Jobs, from Walter Isaacson and Bios: Lives that Marked Yours: Luis Alberto Spinetta, from National Geographic.
This genre, which has its origins in the seventeenth century, is made based on data and, if possible, from interviews made with family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances of the character. These works usually include facts and anecdotes of the character from his childhood to his last days of life. In addition, they include information about family, friends, studies, trade or profession, his most important works, as well as about the environments that may have marked his life: school, neighborhood, city.
Biographies can include descriptions about the character’s personality and information about the context and time in which he lived. In case the character has died, his legacy and influences up to the time of the publication of the work can also be covered. Memoirs, unlike biographies, focus on a certain period in the character’s life and can even be written by himself, in the first person.
Characteristics of biographies
- They portray the personality and character of the character.
- They aspire to be objective works.
- They do not necessarily respect the chronological order.
- They combine characteristics of the essay with characteristics of the narrative.
- They are the result of investigations that reconstruct the life of the character or of the most important moments. They always detail places and dates.
- They are written in the third person.
- They do not have a defined extension.
- Authorized Biography. They were reviewed and approved by its protagonist.
- Unauthorized Biography. They do not have the endorsement or authorization of the biographer.
- Autobiography. The protagonist of the biography is the author of the work, so it is written in the first person.
Examples of biographies
- Catch Me If You Can. This film directed by Steven Spilberg portrays the life of American Frank Abagnale Jr., a con artist who, from the age of 19, pretends to be an airplane pilot, doctor and lawyer, and thus amasses a significant fortune. In addition, this character (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) appeals to counterfeiting checks, with such skill that he ends up being recruited by the FBI as an adviser. The film was released in 2002 and received two Oscar nominations, in the categories of Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken and Best Soundtrack for John Williams.
- Truman capote. This film, released in February 2006, tells the life of the American journalist Truman Capote. His script is based on the book Capote, a biography, by Gerald Clarke. Set in November 1959, it tells how the writer (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) embarks on the writing of the book In Cold Blood from a small newspaper article that narrates the terrible murder of a family in Kansas. With this performance, Hoffman won the Oscar for best actor.
- Ray. This film tells the story of the soul and R&B musician Ray Charles who, despite his vision problems and with the help of his mother, managed to become one of the most prominent pianists and musicians of the 1950s and 1960s. This film, Released in January 2005, it was directed by Taylor Hackford and reflects how the artist of humble origins ends up involved in drug problems, as well as being a victim of abusive relationships. Jamie Foxx played Charles and won the Oscar for best leading actor. In addition, the film was awarded in the category of best sound.
- The wolf of Wall Street. This Martin Scorsese-directed film portrays the life of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who refuses to collaborate in a fraud case for which he is convicted. This film, released in 2013, received five Oscar nominations.
- Maria Sharapova: The Point. This documentary released in 2017 portrays the months in which the professional tennis player was suspended, the consequences of this suspension that lasted 15 months and her return to the courts. The play lasts 55 minutes and intersperses archive material and professional videos of the Russian athlete.
- Bios. Lives that marked yours: Charly García. This documentary produced by National Geographic portrays the life and work of the Argentine musician. Released in 2018, García himself and the singer Julieta Venegas, along with biographers, musicians and journalists review the work and milestones of the artist’s musical and personal life.
- Trump: An American Dream. This four-episode documentary was released in 2018 and portrays the life of former US President Donald Trump. The work appeals to testimonies from detractors and friends who review the tycoon since he began as a construction businessman in his father’s company, until he reached the White House, a fact that for many seemed impossible. In addition, the documentary includes details of his personal life, his foray into the casino industry and the feat of going public when his emporium was on the brink of ruin.
- The younger sister. A portrait of Silvina Ocampo, by Mariana Enriquez. Published in 2018, this book reviews the life of Silvina Ocampo. Raised in a family of the aristocracy, the Argentine writer not only transcended for her literary work but also for her private side: the relationship she maintained with her husband, the also writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, the conflicts with her sister, Victoria, her friends with figures of the stature of Jorge Luis Borges and the supposed romances with Bioy’s mother and the poet Alejandra Pizarnik.
- Michael Jordan. The king of the game, by Máximo José Tobías. This book published in 2020 portrays the life of the most recognized player of the Chicago Bulls and one of the most important figures in the NBA. Throughout its 400 pages, the work spans from the basketball star’s childhood in North Carolina to the end of his career with the Washington Wizards. He also delves into the six NBA championships in which he participated, for which he was dedicated a statue that bears the legend “the best that has ever existed, the best that there will ever be.”
- Frida Kahlo. A biography, by María Hesse. This 160-page book narrates the life and work of the Mexican artist, who did not allow herself to be overshadowed by “her great love,” the also painter Diego Rivera.