More than five years ago I photocopied a draft of an autobiography written by my uncle by marriage, with the intention of entering the text into my computer, printing out a copy for his son, my cousin Rawd, and there ending my work on the book. It didn't work out that way. In 2003, Cousin Rawd was four years into a predicted TWO YEAR survival with lung cancer. He lived until October 2007, but other than reading my transcription and starting to make footnotes, he did no further work. I believe his thinking was that the book was already written, and work on it was not as urgent as writing the stories that existed only in his own mind and memory. He continued writing those family stories until weeks before his death.
I was left with this autobiography sitting neglected in my computer for five years while other projects arose and were worked on. But two weeks ago, when I had finished most of the work on the book of the letters Rawd's parents had written to each other when they were courting, I felt the urge to re-examine the book, and found that without input which could be provided only by 'Rawd - or his sister, who died last fall - there was little left to do. So I did a final edit/proofing, finished the formatting and indexing and the last three copies are printing out as I type.
Some doubts have assailed me in the process of working on this book. My uncle had a troubled youth and he did not hesitate to write of his troubles; there was little joy in his life until he met his future wife. He was a man of challenging complexity - brilliant, analytical - and given to critical self-analysis. He completed what Rawd and I took to be the final draft of his book - several drafts were found in a trunk of family papers - in 1951, and now almost six decades later some of his analyses about mankind and the world are seen to be prescient. His early bitter self-criticism, his remarkable intellect and phenomenal memory contributed to his highly successful career in law and regional politics.
Perhaps my biggest doubt has been about the frankness with which he revealed his mental processes, his relationships with people and occasionally his self-loathing. I recall my mother's view about being too revealing or too critical of others when she read the autobiography my father was writing. She encouraged him to delete passages which "might be hurtful to those of that family still living." I had hoped to leave to Rawd the making of any decisions about such deletions. Lacking his input, and not feeling competent to alter the text (except for the usual editing) I am printing it as it came to me.
My uncle's book has a smaller audience now than it would have had in 2003, and vastly smaller than if had been printed soon after it was written. Copies will go only to his children's spouses and his grandchildren.
I can but hope that this is what Rawd would have wished.