Thursday, July 21, 2005

Alec Guinness: "My Name Escapes Me: The Diary of a Retiring Actor" (1997)


Sir Alec Guinness. Colonel Nicholson. General Yevgraf Zhivago. Obi Wan Kenobi. Prince Faisal. Professor Marcus. Mystery Guest Star. Alec Guinness. He was these and many more, many faces, all different, all Alec Guinness.

This diary is a little jewel. Unlike most diaries in Exploratoria, there is no link to it because it is not publicly available online. I had already mentioned it briefly in the entry
"John Copeland: Diary of a Septuagenarian" because it does remind me in many ways of John's careful, brilliant prose. My Name Escapes Me - these are the words of a conservative rebel, rejecting a world of decidedly uncomfortable changes, yet embracing candidly those that seem, well, not so inconvenient.

There is so much of England in this book. So much Humanity, too. Honesty is such a priced value when it comes to diaries, and Sir Alec's finely edited manuscript is a monument of it. So take a good look at this exercise in sincere self-insight - Merula, his wife, must have been very proud. I still need to track and read other books of his: "Blessings in Disguise (1985)", "A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, 1996-98" (1999), "A Commonplace Book" (2001) and apparently, other titles that do escape me at this point.

One cannot but agree with Sheila O'Malley ('The Sheila Variations'), in her opinion of this diary: "...filled with great stuff - and is made up only of entries from 1995 and 1996 - Only a year from his life, and basically from way after he has mostly retired. So it is not a journal of ambition, or great stories - just ruminations of a great actor, who loves his garden, loves going to Mass, loves reading with his wife. His humor is so delicate, so wonderful.". She quotes an excerpt, among others:

"Tuesday 21 February: Today I have picked up a rather good notice in an American film trade paper for a performance I have never given in a film I have never heard of. It says that I am 'almost unrecognizable' in the film. I like the 'almost'."

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