|Death of letters spells tough time for biographers, says royal writer|
William Shawcross during a "meet the authors" session at the Hong Kong Book Fair. The slow death of the handwritten age might be a boon for email-reading intelligence agencies but not for biographers, says the man entrusted by Queen Elizabeth II to write the biography of her mother. AFP PHOTO / Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
By: David Watkins
HONG KONG (AFP).- The slow death of handwriting might be a boon for email-reading intelligence agencies but not for biographers, says the man entrusted by Queen Elizabeth II to write the biography of her mother.
Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, journalist and broadcaster William Shawcross has written provocatively on an array of subjects including Cambodia, the fall of the Shah of Iran, Rupert Murdoch, the Iraq war and justice in the post 9/11 world.
Most recently Shawcross, 67, wrote the official biography of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (2009) and a compilation of some of her letters, which was released last year.
Invited by the queen to write the biography of her mother, he was given access to a full archive of her letters at Windsor Castle.
"As a journalist it's lovely getting hold of documents that no one else has got," he said in an interview with AFP on the sidelines of the Hong Kong Book Fair, where he took part in a forum on writing.
"Here was 100 years of history that people hadn't seen before."
Such paper treasure troves may themselves soon be consigned to history given the time we spend tapping on keyboards, smartphone screens and tablet computers instead of taking the time to craft missives.
Whoever gets to write the biography of Prince William -- who with his wife Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge is this week celebrating the birth of their son George -- will be in for a tough time, said Shawcross.
"Prince Charles writes long letters like his grandmother did, but Prince William sends emails and texts and that's going to be impossible for biographers."
But while the death of letter writing is going to make it "very difficult" for biographers in the future, that's not to say that the information won't be stored somewhere, he added.
"Privacy no longer exists as it did when I was young. In England we have cameras on every street corner, every text is stored forever on servers. That's a very frightening thing. I was amused to read that the Russian government is going to go back to using typewriters and paper because that's seen as less likely to be stolen".
Shawcross was referring to the Russian state service in charge of safeguarding Kremlin communications, which is looking to buy an array of old-fashioned typewriters to prevent leaks from computer hardware.
The throwback to the paper-strewn days of Soviet bureaucracy has reportedly been prompted by the publication of secret documents by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and the revelations leaked by fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Snowden's claims about the US National Security Agency's PRISM programme to capture and store email, phone and other communication data has raised questions of how such practices chime with democratic values while bringing into sharp focus the tension between public freedom and public safety in an increasingly wired world.
"It's a huge tension now," said Shawcross. "Everything we do is linked, we have smartphones and every text or message sent can be stored forever -- it means that there is no privacy as there was when I was growing up, and that's very sad."
Shawcross, who previously worked for the Sunday Times, examined similar ground in his 2012 book "Justice and the Enemy", which looked at the issues raised in attempting to prosecute Islamist terrorists in the post 9/11 world.
"I think Snowden was absolutely wrong to do what he has done," said Shawcross.
"His behaviour has been self-serving and damaging to the world. He could have gone up to his superiors with a perfectly proper whistleblowing process within the NSA... He should have used those other than stealing documents and releasing them in this way."
But at the very least, such behaviour might tempt a few more of us -- not to mention a few spies and royals -- into rediscovering the art of writing a letter. Future biographers would be pleased.
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
July 28, 2013
Mexican archaeologists find 500-year old cranium belonging to a decapitated individual
The Museo del Prado has received Berruguete's Virgin and Child enthroned
"An American in Venice: James McNeill Whistler and His Legacy" opens at the Arkell Museum
Kerlin Gallery announces an exhibition of new work by conceptual artist Liam Gillick
New book to be published by Flammarion reveals German artist Anselm Kiefer's studio
McMichael Canadian Art Collection pairs Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynsky in two exhibitions
Indoor and Out: Sotheby's to stage two major selling exhibitions at Chatsworth in Derbyshire
Exhibition of works by Venice Beach artist Ed Moses opens at Leslie Sacks Contemporary
Kayne Griffin Corcoran presents Berlin-based artist Daniel Knorr's "Depression Elevations"
From Goldilocks to high art to space suits: Trio of art exhibits open at National Air and Space Museum
Captured United States spy ship, the USS Pueblo, is main draw of North Korea war museum
Bruce Silverstein presents a rendition of Rosalind Solomon's "Portraits in the Time of AIDS"
Desire: A group exhibition of women artists on view at The Yancey Richardson Gallery
Head: Exhibition curated by Robert Curcio and D. Dominick Lombardi on view at BOSI Contemporary
Original 1978 Jack Kirby 'Argo' film artwork, from collection of comic legend Jim Lee, readies for auction
Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art exhibits works by Merlin James
Wayne Gretzky's stick, used on goal 1,000 at 13 years old, readies for auction
Death of letters spells tough time for biographers, says royal writer
Russian court rules to keep Pussy Riot member in jail
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- First solo exhibition by the American artist Mickalene Thomas in Belgium opens at Galerie Nathalie Obadia
2.- Israel accidentally finds ancient mosaic that served as pavement for a courtyard in a villa
3.- The address of Johannes Vermeer's the Little Street discovered by Rijksmuseum curator
4.- The nine lives of Russia's Hermitage cats that root out unwanted guests: Rodents
5.- Robbers make off with masterpieces by Rubens and Tintoretto from museum in Verona
6.- 17th century letters at Museum of Communication reveal refugees 'sense of loss'
7.- New museum dedicated to the artist Mu Xin opens in Zhejiang Province, China
8.- Who are the most prolific art collectors in the US today?
9.- Rubens House brings newly discovered study for a portrait by Van Dyck to Antwerp
10.- "The Nude in the XX and XXI century" curated by Jane Neal opens at Sotheby's S/2 London
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|