January Books

Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann

For most of her life, Norwegian novelist and journalist Linn Ullmann has resisted writing about growing up as the daughter of Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann. Profiling Ullmann for the New York Times Magazine, Wyatt Mason is careful not to even mention her parents’ names until he’s several paragraphs in, but what eventually comes through is how close she felt to her father and how deeply connected she is still to her mother. “‘Magnificent’ was the word she used” when talking about her, notes Mason. But Linn Ullmann was determined to establish her own identity independent of her upbringing. She studied literature in New York, and when she returned to Oslo, she eventually became, as Mason puts it, “the most important literary critic of her generation, a James Wood of Norwegian writing.” In 1998, when she was thirty-three, she turned away from criticism to write her first novel, and she wrote four more before her latest, Unquiet, came out in Norway in 2015. This week sees the publication of Thilo Reinhard’s English translation.

“If the backs of her books always hid from view any mention of her family past, the new book foregrounds it,” writes Mason. Ullmann has put together a fragmentary patchwork of memories that incorporates transcripts of conversations with her father that she recorded late in his life. “Ullmann’s other books are filled with voices, with shifts in point of view,” notes Mason, “but the voice of the father in Unquiet feels different, not a creation so much as a kind of visitation. Thus the book became in part about her father’s death, a death that allowed her to write the story of her life, of her parents’ love and of her own for them.”

Last month, the New Yorker published “Time for the Eyes to Adjust,” a piece adapted from Unquiet, and you can listen to Ullmann reading it as well. For those who admire the work of her parents, there are invaluable recollections here, though Ullmann does warn that “you can never know much about other people’s lives, least of all your parents’, especially if your parents have made a point of turning their lives into stories that they then go on to tell with a God-given ability for not caring in the least about what’s true and what’s not.”

French Criticism

Jacques Rivette never intended to become a film critic, but in 1950, after he’d made his first short film, he began writing about movies for Gazette du cinéma, Cahiers du cinéma, and Arts. A new volume from Post-Éditions, Textes Critiques, gathers reviews, conversations, diary entries, and tributes to François Truffaut, Cinémathèque française cofounder Henri Langlois, and critic and theorist André Bazin. “Despite the constant evolution of Rivette’s critical position, several concerns have a permanent presence in his writing,” notes Srikanth Srinivasan before addressing six of those concerns in his review for the Notebook.

Speaking of Bazin, the New Yorker’s Richard Brody alerts us to a new two-volume set of the complete writings out now from Éditions Macula. The 2,848 pages are divided into twenty-four sections, each introduced by historian and scholar Hervé Joubert-Laurencin, who’s written extensively about not only Bazin but also Hayao Miyazaki and Pier Paolo Pasolini. An English-language edition of either the Rivette or the Bazin collection, never mind both, would be a tall order, but we can dream.


At the Daily Beast, Christopher Dickey introduces an excerpt from Richard Gergel’s Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring. In 1946, Woodard, a black army sergeant who’d returned to the States from the Second World War, was beaten by a white police officer so severely that his eyes were crushed. The excerpt focuses on Orson Welles’s campaign on national radio to discover the identity of that officer. This is the first of his four broadcasts addressing the incident:

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