Writing biography is translating the dead; it's the practice of using analogy (as translators do) to imagine the course and purpose, accomplishment and failure of a life and of that life's work. It's the rustling of papers to find meaning, follow meaning, and sometimes, in the worst cases, to graft meaning to disparate events so that in the end what seemed to mean nothing finally means something. Evenmoreso, literary biographers (as translators do) work at becoming an authors most attentive reader, to gather from his or her life-story a glossary of signs and symbols that will allow future readers a greater expansiveness. The literary biographer works to add and aid, to gather new readers, to draw old readers down new paths, and so on. This is the point of it.
Nathanael West was here, here translating the dead, here at the foot of Baudelaire's grave in the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris in the winter of 1927. West translated the poetry of Baudelaire that winter for himself, from French to English, just as Baudelaire translated Poe from English to French. Translation is (as translators do).