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Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir

Leni Riefenstahl, Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir (New York: St. Martin’s Press), 669 pages.

It’s terribly difficult knowing what to think about Leni Riefenstahl’s Memoir. She began writing it when she was 80, finished it at 85, and now that she’s 91 the English-language edition has just been issued. While the Memoir concludes in 1982, a new documentary (Ray Müller’s The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl) shows her soldiering on with enough projects to last another lifetime. Together, the film and autobiography should meld into a hymn to the wondrous possibilities of simply, magnificently getting on with the job of living a life.

They don’t. The epic ambiguity that has accrued around Riefenstahl is an impenetrable cloud bank resistant to all forms of conventional navigation. Caught in that vast whiteness, I keep thinking of a line by D. H. Lawrence: “If people lived without accepting

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