In recent years, biography has cast off its previous poor image. As a consequence of a revised evaluation and as a result of theoretical considerations it has, in recent years, enjoyed a renaissance in a range of different disciplines. For this reason I should like to refer to this genre, which has existed since Classical times and which has enjoyed regular rebirth, as a ‘living fossil’. The virtues, conceptual interest, risks and problems involved in biography are the motives for the reflections in this article. In the palaeontological sense, fossilization involves the transformation of the original organism into a different form. The metaphor of a ‘fossilized life’ may be used with two different meanings, particularly since it has not only to do with a ‘frozen form’ but also with a transformation in comparison to the person's original life.

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