Cobain diaries likely to fuel the cult surrounding Nirvana singer's death

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The diaries of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana singer who killed himself eight years ago, are to be published in a development likely to stoke the controversy over his legacy.

American publishing houses are bidding for the potentially lucrative rights to his journals, which were a vital source for Charles R Cross's biography of the singer, Heavier than Heaven. He was granted access to them by Courtney Love, Cobain's wife.

Ever since Cobain shot himself in April 1994, there have been recriminations over Love's behaviour before and after his death. Critics have accused her of manipulating Cobain in life and then exerting unreasonable control of his legacy in death.

She is currently locked in a legal struggle with two of Nirvana's former members, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, over rights to the band's output.

While they have condemned her as "irrational, self-centred and unpredictable", she has dismissed them as "sidemen". Her supporters maintain she was a loving wife who has been the victim of the misogyny of the rock world.

Cobain began regularly scribbling in diaries as an adolescent, a time when he was frequently unhappy. His friends were all attracted to his alluring mother whose lovers tended to bully the young boy. And by the time he was 18, three uncles and his grandfather on the Cobain side of the family had killed themselves. He often referred to his "suicide genes".

An unnamed source said: "There is a lot of interest. Kurt was remarkably insightful, funny and complicated. This book will be a primer for all young rock musicians and an education for everyone who thought they knew him."

The diaries are reported to become sketchier towards the end of his life. But fans of Cobain – credited with starting the genre of Seattle grunge – will hope that his personal writings will give some clue to the abiding mystery of why he decided to put a shotgun in his mouth at the age of 27.

Perhaps there was no mystery. Thirteen years earlier, he had boasted to schoolmates that he was going to be "rich and famous and kill myself like Jimi Hendrix".