Ex-girlfriends of US President Barack Obama have spoken for the first time of his "sexual warmth" and disclosed the contents of love letters that he sent during his 20s, in a new biography.
Genevieve Cook and Alex McNear, who had relationships with Mr Obama in New York in the early 1980s, gave previously unseen material on Mr Obama to David Maraniss, a Pulitzer prize-winning author.
Letters Mr Obama sent to Ms McNear and journal entries by Ms Cook depict a serious and earnest young man struggling to come to terms with his racial identity and place in modern American society.
Maraniss also discloses that a "New York girlfriend" described at length by Mr Obama in his memoir, 'Dreams From My Father', is in fact a composite of different women he dated during the period.
Mr Obama confirmed to Maraniss in an interview that the New York girlfriend described in 'Dreams From My Father', who frequently resembles Ms Cook, also comprised details of other women.
"That was an example of compression," Mr Obama said, according to excerpts in 'Vanity Fair' magazine. "I was very sensitive in my book not to write about my girlfriends, partly out of respect for them."
In one diary entry from February 1984, Ms Cook -- a girlfriend for more than a year -- noted that in their relationship "the sexual warmth is definitely there -- but the rest of it has sharp edges".
She recalled "feeling anger" at Mr Obama, whose "warmth can be deceptive".
Foreshadowing a criticism often levelled at him today, she said: "Though he speaks sweet words there is also that coolness."
Ms Cook remembered meeting "Barry" at a Christmas party in 1983. After drinking Baileys from the bottle, she chatted with him on an orange beanbag, before exchanging telephone numbers.
Her journal recalls a 22-year-old man in "a comfy T-shirt depicting buxom women", marked by the smells of "running sweat, Brut spray deodorant, smoking, eating raisins, sleeping, breathing".
Ms Cook "engaged (Mr Obama) in the deepest romantic relationship of his young life", Mr Maraniss writes, but they separated in 1985.
Reflecting on the "emotional scarring" that made him hard to get close to, she wrote at the time: "I guess I hoped time would change things, and he'd let go and 'fall in love' with me."
Her journal entries described a long effort to understand Mr Obama that eventually failed when they broke up.
"How is he so old already, at the age of 22?" she wrote. "I have to recognise (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his thereness very threatening."
In another entry, she wrote: "Barack -- still intrigues me, but so much going on beneath the surface, out of reach. Guarded, controlled." She said she thought he was "balancing the tendency to be always the observer" with "how to effect change". The two broke up in 1985.
Ms McNear revealed an attempt at literary criticism by the young Mr Obama, whom she had met at Occidental University in California, where both had been studying.
The pair spent the summer of 1982 together in New York, following Mr Obama's transfer to the city's Columbia University, and continued to correspond after Ms McNear's return to Los Angeles.
In one exchange Mr Obama gave a densely written opinion on TS Eliot, on whom Ms McNear was writing a thesis. "There's a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism," he wrote. "Eliot is of this type."
Ms McNear recalled to Maraniss that Mr Obama was "obsessed with the concept of choice", musing: "Did he have real choices in his life? Did he have free will?"
As the multiracial product of an international upbringing, he complained of being "caught without a class, a structure, or tradition to support me" and envying the clearly defined lives of Pakistani friends. (© Daily Telegraph, London)