Gabriele Annan

  • Garbo: Her Story by Antoni Gronowicz
    Viking, 476 pp, £15.99, August 1990, ISBN 0 670 83651 6

This biography is sad and bad. Bad like a bad pre-war Hollywood movie – monumentally, heroically implausible. But its badness is also its greatest asset: the style and attitude transport one to the time and place where most of the action is set. Everything that happens is drama, every conversation is script. Antoni Gronowicz, now dead, claims that he met Garbo in Paderewski’s house on Lake Geneva in 1938 when she was 35 and he was 22. They went for a moonlight walk and Garbo seduced him. Gronowicz immediately conceived the idea of writing a book about her. She was against the idea and forbade him to take notes in her presence, let alone use a recorder. But he lured her into intimate conversations which continued over the years, and he would write down everything she said the moment he was alone. By the end of the Fifties he had enough notes to begin pressurising her about a biography. Her reaction was in full make-up: ‘I will deny that I talked with you, I will deny that I know you, I will deny that I have even heard of you.’ And he replied: ‘If you imagine that you will always be great, I am warning you now that you will gradually sink below the horizon of remembrance and be gone for ever.’

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