Recently I’ve been getting more and more into just picking up second-hand books from charity shops that I’ve never heard of before, but look interesting.  Although they very rarely turn out to be lost masterpieces, they generally have some odd quality about them that you just don’t find in books that manage to stay in print and gain a reputation for being of merit.  While those are usually as worthwhile as people say they are, they’re often good in quite a boring and predictable way.  Charity shop purchases, however, often have the capacity to make you re-evaluate your personal understanding of what ‘good’ is.

Choices by the actor Liv Ullmann is perhaps such a book.  Her second volume of autobiography, it details the slow disintegration of a relationship with a partner she calls Abel, while her role as Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef changes her life.

Much of the book is given over to what Ullmann witnesses while in her official capacity.  It’s well-written and very moving.  Between this, however, we have conversations between Liv and Abel where they pull apart their relationship like it’s a toad in an American high school science class.  And what conversations they have.  Here is an example:

“Abel, I am alone.”

“Sometimes I am afraid that you need me only as a confirmation that you can love and be loved.”  He wipes my eyes and holds me close.  “I love you.”

“You told me – ‘use me’.”

“I told you – ‘take me’.”

“Abel, why are you always so angry at me now?”

He says quietly, “I’m not.  You and I, we live so impatiently, with such lack of understanding.  You and I are dreamers, both wanting the impossible to happen.

“My hope is that, through you, I’ll lose my past.  I promise I won’t leave you, unless I grow certain that we two shall never be like one.  Without a past.

“Though if I leave, I’ll never look back.  I’ll leave you with no regret.  I’ll dream no more, but I’ll have no regrets.”

We are both silent.

Does anyone fancy a pint?


One Response to “Choices”

  1. Great read, Richard. I do the same, finding such books, especially out of prinli t biographies in the used book shops. It often gives me the delightful feeling that I have discovered the secret to time travel, entering portals to different eras.

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