In this, my perhaps unfortunate and insensitively named blog post, I’d like to direct my thoughts to Leni Riefenstahl regarding her memoirs.
The New York Times, in 1993, called The Sieve of Time: The Memoirs of Leni Riefenstahl one of the most notable books of the year. And it was. It should not be discounted as extremely important and definitely containing some important personal accounts of an extremely complex historical period. But, it contains no factual information that can tie it to the rest of history as it has been reported. There is no background information given as to why why certain things might be happening. For example, a man in her staff for the film Olympia is suddenly fired. Riefenstahl does absolutely nothing to explain this occurence, and only laments over Joseph Goebbels personal vendetta against her for spurning his love. It’s true, all discerning readers would know the reason already, but in a book of such magnitude and historical relevance it would be helpful and without doubt of interest to be presented with such facts and decisions.
For example, in relation to the above event, it would have been great to read something like this (taken from Thomas Doherty’s Pre-Code Hollywood, one of my favourite books):
A year earlier in April 1933, the Nazi ban on Jews in the German motion picture industry had been extended to non-German employees from Hollwood when the Reichsfilmkammer demanded the removal of “every Jewish film man employed in all of the American film offices and branches.”
As far as I can tell from the copy I am reading, this version of Riefenstahl’s memoirs was not translated from the German by an external party but written by herself. And it is so terribly written. Bland, each story has a subtitle which stalls the stories unnecessarily, adjectives are picked as though from a thesaurus, names interchanged methodically. I cannot read for more than a few pages before my brain can no longer hold interest.
Sorry Leni, but I cannot keep going. I give up on your memoirs.