A big challenge for the biographer when his subject died in the trenches is, frankly, stylistic: should he/she go with the deepening muffled drums, the lugubrious blanket that descends on your prose as the end draws closer?
No, in my opinion. The biographer must carry on as though he/she does not know the end. He/she must always write ‘in the present’ and not give way to culturally approved, even ‘ritualised’, ways of narrating World War I death. Leave it to your subject to say when he/she was becoming depressed by it all.
About three years ago, the last sentence of the last chapter of George Calderon’s life ‘came’ to me. I filed it in memory and lived with it for two years. Then it struck me as too portentous and another came to me. Since then I have binned about six ‘last sentences’. Now I understand that I have to live with no last sentences at all. The story of his last ten months has to be made present to the reader as I write it, and that is all. Where the last sentence is concerned, what will be will be.
Tomorrow, then, back to the ‘present’ (August 1914).
Next Entry: 14 August 1914