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“I believe, not theoretically, but from direct personal experience, that very few of the things that happen to us are purposeless or accidental (and this includes suffering and grief — even that of others), and that sometimes one catches a glimpse of the link between these happenings. I believe — even when I am myself blind and deaf, or even indifferent — in the existence of a mystery ... ”
“[On writing biography:] ... every human life is at once so complex and so simple, so perplexing and so clear, so superficial and so profound, that any attempt to present it as a unified, consistent whole, to enclose it within a rigid frame, inevitably tempts one to cheat or to falsify.”
“... whereas in childhood ... it was the parents' judgement that mattered to the child, later on the situation becomes reversed: it is then that the opinions of one's grown-up children become what matters, as well as their kindness.”
“... I do not think that one is likely to write a good biography unless one feels some sympathy with its subject ...”
“I write because, exacting as it may be to do so, it is still more difficult to refrain, and because — however conscious of one's limitations one may be — there is always at the back of one's mind an irrational hope that this next book will be different: it will be the rounded achievement, the complete fulfilment. It never has been: yet I am still writing.”
“[On writing biography:] If you wish to see a person you must not start by seeing through him.”
“... while it is certainly the biographer's business to describe the foibles, passions and idiosyncrasies which make his subject a person, his work will be very meagre if these individual traits are not also seen as part of a universal drama — for each man's life is also the story of Everyman.”
“Behind each biography there should always be a rich treasury of unformulated knowledge, a tapestry that has not been unrolled.”
“The biographer's real business — if it is not too arrogant to say so — is simply this: to bring the dead to life.”
“Just as, in travel, one may miss seeing the sunset because one cannot find the ticket-office or is afraid of missing the train, so in even the closest human relationships a vast amount of time and of affection is drained away in minor misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and failures in consideration or understanding.”
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Iris Origo, English-Irish writer, biographer
(1902 - 1998)
Full name: Iris Margaret Cutting Origo, Marchesa of Val d’Orcia, DBE.