Remarkable Lives: A Collection of Extraordinary Biographies from Yale

Remarkable achievements are often the products of remarkable lives. The following collection of recently published and forthcoming books from Yale present a stunning assortment of biographies which cover a huge range of subjects, from poets to actors, composers to explorers. Each subject featured in the titles listed here has had an indelible impact, not just on their field of work, but also on the cultural landscape in which they operated. The lives these people lived differ wildly, but each of their histories give an astounding insight into the work they produced and provides a foundation for our understanding of the world today.

Simeone 15-3-13Leonard Bernstein was a charismatic and versatile musician – a brilliant conductor who attained international super-star status, and a gifted composer of Broadway musicals (West Side Story), symphonies (Age of Anxiety), choral works (Chichester Psalms), film scores (On the Waterfront), and much more. Bernstein was also an enthusiastic letter writer, and this book – published in October – is the first to present a wide-ranging selection of his correspondence. The letters have been chosen for the insights they offer into the passions of his life – musical and personal – and the extravagant scope of his musical and extra-musical activities. Bernstein’s letters tell much about this complex man, his collaborators, his mentors, and others close to him. His galaxy of correspondents encompassed, among others, Aaron Copland, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green and Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis. This collection of largely unpublished letters provide a glimpse of the man behind the legends: his humanity, warmth, volatility, intellectual brilliance, wonderful eye for descriptive detail, and humour.

Prideaux pb 3-4-13Novelist, satirist, poet, photographer, painter, alchemist and hellraiser – August Strindberg was all these, and yet he is principally known, in Arthur Miller’s words, as ‘the mad inventor of modern theatre’ who led playwriting out of the polite drawing room into the snakepit of psychological warfare. This biography, supported by extensive new research, describes the eventful and complicated life of one of the great literary figures in world literature. Sue Prideaux organizes Strindberg’s story into a gripping and highly readable narrative that both illuminates his work and restores humour and humanity to a man often shrugged off as too difficult. Even more than most, Strindberg is a writer whose life sheds invaluable light on his work. Recounting the playwright’s journey through the “real” world as well as the world of belief and ideas, Prideaux marks the centenary of Strindberg’s death in 1912 with a biography worthy of the man who laid the foundation for Western drama through the twentieth century and even into the twenty-first.

Williams-Burton pbIrresistibly magnetic on stage, mesmerizing in movies, seven times an Academy Award nominee, Richard Burton rose from humble beginnings in Wales to become Hollywood’s most highly paid actor and one of England’s most admired Shakespearean performers. His epic romance with Elizabeth Taylor, his legendary drinking and story-telling, his dazzling purchases (enormous diamonds, a jet, homes on several continents), and his enormous talent kept him constantly in the public eye. Yet the man behind the celebrity faade carried a surprising burden of insecurity and struggled with the peculiar challenges of a life lived largely in the spotlight.
This volume publishes Burton’s extensive personal diaries in their entirety for the first time. His writings encompass many years-from 1939, when he was still a teenager, to 1983, the year before his death-and they reveal him in his most private moments, pondering his triumphs and demons, his loves and his heartbreaks. The diary entries appear in their original sequence, with annotations to clarify people, places, books, and events Burton mentions.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka was the poet of his own disorder. Throughout his life he struggled with a pervasive sense of shame and guilt that left traces in his daily existence – in his many letters, extensive diaries, and especially in his fiction. This stimulating book investigates some of the sources of Kafka’s personal anguish and its complex reflections in his imaginary world. In this biography, Saul Friedlander probes major aspects of Kafka’s life (family, Judaism, love and sex, writing, illness, and despair) that until now have been skewed by posthumous censorship. Contrary to Kafka’s dying request that all his papers be burned, Max Brod, Kafka’s closest friend and literary editor, published and edited the author’s novels and other works soon after his death in 1924. Friedlander shows that, when reinserted in Kafka’s works, deleted segments lift the mask of “sainthood” frequently attached to the writer and thus restore to sight previously hidden aspects of his individuality.

John KeatsThis landmark biography of celebrated Romantic poet John Keats explodes entrenched conceptions of him as a delicate, overly sensitive, tragic figure. Instead, Nicholas Roe reveals the real flesh-and-blood poet: a passionate man driven by ambition but prey to doubt, suspicion, and jealousy; sure of his vocation while bitterly resentful of the obstacles that blighted his career; devoured by sexual desire and frustration; and in thrall to alcohol and opium. Through unparalleled original research, Roe arrives at a fascinating reassessment of Keats’s entire life, from his early years at Keats’s Livery Stables through his harrowing battle with tuberculosis and death at age 25.

Roe is the first biographer to provide a full and fresh account of Keats’s childhood in the City of London and how it shaped the would-be poet. The mysterious early death of Keats’s father, his mother’s too-swift remarriage, living in the shadow of the notorious madhouse Bedlam–all these affected Keats far more than has been previously understood.
Marquess of Queensbury

The Marquess of Queensberry is perhaps as famous for destroying one of our greatest literary geniuses as he was for helping establish the rules for modern-day boxing. The trial and two-year imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, following a series of events inspired by Wilde’s romantic interest in his son, remains one of history’s great tragedies. However, Linda Stratmann’s riveting biography of the marquess, also known as John Sholto Douglas, paints a far more complex picture by drawing on new sources and unpublished letters. In his forties, Douglas was altered by a series of setbacks. The events of the Wilde affair – told for the first time from the marquess’ perspective – were directly linked to them. Through the retelling of pivotal events from Douglas’ life, including the death of his brother on the Matterhorn, his fruitless search for him, and the suicide of his father, the book reveals a well-meaning man often stricken with a grief he found hard to express, who deserves our compassion.

Sharma 2-10-12In his Autobiography, Gandhi wrote, “What I want to achieve – what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years – is self-realization, to see God face to face…All that I do by way of speaking and writing, and all my ventures in the political field, are directed to this same end”. While hundreds of biographies and histories have been written about Gandhi (1869 – 1948), nearly all of them have focused on the political, social, or familial dimensions of his life. Very few, in recounting how Gandhi led his country to political freedom, have viewed his struggle primarily as a search for spiritual liberation. Shifting the focus to the understudied subject of Gandhi’s spiritual life, Arvind Sharma retells the story of Gandhi’s life through this lens. Sharma explores the eclectic religious atmosphere in which Gandhi was raised, his belief in reincarnation, his conviction that morality and religion are synonymous, his attitudes toward tyranny and freedom, and, perhaps most important, the mysterious source of his power to establish new norms of human conduct.

Turner 26-9-12Leaving so few traces of himself behind, Thomas Aquinas seems to defy the efforts of the biographer. Highly visible as a public teacher, preacher, and theologian, he nevertheless has remained nearly invisible as man and saint. What can be discovered about this man, his mind, and his soul? In this short, compelling portrait, Denys Turner clears away the haze of time and brings Thomas vividly to life for contemporary readers – those unfamiliar with the saint as well as those well acquainted with his teachings. Building on the best biographical scholarship available today and reading Thomas’ texts with piercing acuity, Turner seeks the point at which the man, the mind, and the soul of Thomas Aquinas intersect. Reflecting upon Thomas, a man of Christian Trinitarian faith yet one whose thought is grounded firmly in the body’s interaction with the material world, a thinker at once confident in the powers of human reason and a man of prayer, Turner provides a more detailed human portrait than ever before of one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in all of Western thought.

Jeal pb 2-10-12David Livingstone (1813-1873) is revered as one of history’s greatest explorers and missionaries, the first European to cross Africa, and the first to find Victoria Falls and the source of the Congo River. In this exciting new edition, Jeal draws on fresh sources and archival discoveries to provide the most fully rounded portrait of this complicated man – dogged by failure throughout his life despite his full share of success. Using Livingstone’s original field notebooks, Jeal finds that the explorer’s problems with his African followers were far graver than previously understood. From recently discovered letters he elaborates on the explorer’s decision to send his wife Mary back home to England. He also uncovers fascinating information about Livingstone’s importance to the British Empire and about his relationship with the journalist-adventurer Henry Morton Stanley. In addition Jeal here evokes the full pathos of the explorer’s final journey. This masterful, updated biography also features an excellent selection of new maps and illustrations.

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