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Burning Man: The Trials of D. H. Lawrence has been named the best biography of the year.

Dan Sheehan

May 16, 2022, 10:00am

Biographers International Organization (BIO)—an international non-profit founded to promote the art and craft of biography—today announced Burning Man (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Frances Wilson’s magnificently-titled biography of D. H. Lawrence, as the winner of its 2022 Plutarch Award.

Now in its tenth year, the Plutarch Award, the only international prize of its kind judged exclusively by fellow biographers, honors the best biography published in the English language. Previous winners include Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Ruth Franklin’s Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, and David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

A rapturous statement on behalf of the five-biographer judging committee described Burning Man: The Trials of D. H. Lawrence thusly:

Frances Wilson’s account of the wandering life, relationships, loves and hates of the writer David Herbert Lawrence is so freshly written, so critically honest, so intent on reaching into the difficult heart of one of the greatest prose-writers of the twentieth century in English, that it will be a model for such investigative biographical illumination in the future. It is a tour de force in its delineation of genius. In its imaginative structure, its allusions, and its use of Dante’s Divine Comedy as a kind of poetic guide, it is a demonstration of the golden art and craft of modern biography. Like Lawrence’s own work it is always passionate, intense, revelatory and compellingly original—a biography any biographer would be proud to have composed.

I think most authors would die happy after receiving a commendation like that.

Burning Man beat out some pretty stiff competition in the form of finalists Rebecca Donner’s All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler (Little, Brown & Co.); Robert Elder’s Calhoun: American Heretic (Basic Books), Fiona Sampson’s Two-Way Mirror: The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (W.W. Norton), and Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan’s Francis Bacon: Revelations (Knopf).

Congratulations to Wilson, and to all the finalists.

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