The Art of Biography

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Over the course of two days, a group of authors will discuss the art of biography.


‘To be a biographer you must tie yourself up in lies, concealments, hypocrisies”, Freud wrote to Arnold Zweig in 1936. As for autobiography, “it is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful”, observed George Orwell.

Are these damning accounts accurate? What is specific about a literary genre based in the Greek work Βιογραφία, which combines life (bios) and account (graphia)? And why did it only gain recognition in Europe in the 19th century, two thousand years after Plutarch wrote Parallel Lives, bringing to life Pericles, Alcibiades and Julius Ceasar?

In an era of fast selling bestsellers, riddled with revelations, are Freud and Orwell’s observations vindicated or are biographies an art to be reckoned with?   

With some of the world’s most renowned authors of the genre, these are just some of the questions to be debated.



10:00 / Opening with António Feijó, President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

10:15 / Sarah Bakewell, author of "At the Existentialist Café" and a biography on Montaigne, talks with Alberto Arruda

11:30 / Maria Antónia Oliveira, author of "Alexandre O’Neil, Uma Biografia Literária", talks with Joana Matos Frias


15:00 / António Tomás, author of "Amílcar Cabral, o Fazedor de Utopias", talks with Bárbara Reis

16:00 / Richard Zenith, author of "Pessoa. A Biography", talks with Nuno Amado

17:00 / Patricia Lockwood, author of the memoir "Priestdaddy", talks with Maria Sequeira Mendes

10:00 / Heather Clark, author of "Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath", talks with Isabel Lucas

11:30 / Mark Lewisohn, author of "The Beatles: All These Years", talks with Nuno Galopim


15:00 / Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman, authors of Metaphysical Animals, talk with Sofia Miguens

17:00 / Ruy de Castro, author of biographies on Carmen Miranda, Garrincha or Nelson Rodrigues, talks with Ricardo Araújo Pereira

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation reserves the right to collect and keep records of images, sounds and voice for the diffusion and preservation of the memory of its cultural and artistic activity. For further information, please contact us through the Information Request form.

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