A second autobiographical collage from the actress-author of Changing (1977), with about half of the space devoted to...



A second autobiographical collage from the actress-author of Changing (1977), with about half of the space devoted to Ullmann's recent work as UNICEF's first female Ambassador of Good Will. ""My task was to travel to underdeveloped countires in order to observe UNICEF-assisted projects for child welfare, to get in contact with deprived families and learn about the circumstances in which they lived."" She goes to Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh--meeting refugees, starving and dying mothers and children, ""trembling little lives with survival a stretched thin thread of hope."" In Somalia she watches a mother make a choice: ""to let her only baby die from dehydration or let him drink of poisoned water."" In Haiti she sees hordes of sick, starving paupers--and a near-empty Hospital for the Poor. (Says the nation's First Lady: ""Unfortunately, we have not found the right cases yet."") Throughout, she listens to tales of horror, becomes angry at a ""brutal and competitive"" world controlled by ""the pride and machismo"" of men, and identifies with the Third World victims: ""The woman who wants to give her child away to save it from starvation is me. If I do not acknowledge her in the living span of time we share on earth, how can I expect to be acknowledged myself?"" Meanwhile, then, Ullmann often finds ""what I am doing in the theater or a film studio a cheat""--especially when the projects are ineptly managed: despite her singing audition for Richard Rodgers (""Before my eyes he ages twenty years""), Ullmann stars in I Remember Mama, growing to despise lyricist/director Martin Charnin, who ""acquires information about Scandinavian customs from a young Swedish girl who has just bared all as a Playmate of the Month."" Meanwhile, too, she frets about her doomed affair with handsome Abel, a depressed alcoholic Czech writer who ""wanted me, but not what my life was before and separate from him. . . . He is lost in his own agonizing world. I know we have to leave each other."" And there are memories, dreams, and brief moments in which 45-ish Ullmann confronts aging. . . especially in contrast to the blooming of her edgy teenage daughter Linn. Less witty than Changing, this introspective mosaic is sometimes off-putting in its earnest soulfulness, its pseudo-poetic prose. (The dialogues with tiresome Abel often read like parodies of Bergman.) And readers who relished the celebrity dazzle in Changing--Bergman, Kissinger--will be disappointed. But, with the UNICEF work providing a strong, stark counterpoint, Ullmann's broodings on womanly autonomy do take on some added resonance--making this a sporadically affecting, occasionally provocative update on the ""innermost"" Liv.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1984


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984