Who, me?

Philip Purser

  • The Sieve of Time: Memoirs by Leni Riefenstahl
    Quartet, 669 pp, £30.00, September 1992, ISBN 0 7043 7021 2

Does anyone remember Little Me – a fictional autobiography published by Patrick Dennis 30 years ago in mockery of the self-adulatory memoirs which gushed, as they still gush, from actor-dramatists and other multi-talented luvvies? Little Me would not only conduct the symphony he had composed for the inaugural concert in the splendid new concert hall, he was also the architect who had designed the splendid new concert hall. On free afternoons he was a brain surgeon as well, or have I pinched that from later jokes? By page six of The Sieve of Time Leni Riefenstahl is a competitive swimmer and gymnast, aged 12. On page ten she is designing passenger aircraft for when peace should come (the year is 1918), and drawing up detailed timetables for services to link important German cities. ‘I estimated the cost of plane manufacture, airfield construction and fuel in order to calculate the possible price of tickets. I found this work fascinating and noted there was in me some organisational talent struggling to emerge.’

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