Magisterial in scope, this dual biography examines two complex lives that began alike but ended on opposite sides of the century’s greatest conflict. Please join award-winning translator Shelley Frisch and the distinguished scholar and critic Michael Wood to hear more.
While Dietrich’s slender and androgynous beauty made her a fashion icon whose influence can be seen to this day, Riefenstahl’s own iconography is no less indelible. With her work on two of the most notorious—if artistically sophisticated—propaganda films of all time—Triumph of the Will and Olympia—Riefenstahl was a progenitor of fascist symbolism. After the war she proclaimed her ignorance of Hitler’s motives, but she could never completely distance herself from her Nazi collaboration. Dietrich vehemently condemned Hitler during World War II and found a renewed sense of purpose touring with the USO, but as a result she could never comfortably return to her native Germany.
Shelley Frisch taught at Columbia and chaired the Haverford/Bryn Mawr Bi-College German Department before turning to translation full-time in the 1990s. Her many translations from the German include biographies of Nietzsche, Einstein, and Kafka, for which she has been awarded a Modern Language Association Translation Prize and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. Michael Wood is one of our most versatile critics, conversant with both modern literature and film. He is a professor emeritus of comparative literature at Princeton University. Among his many works are The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction, Children of Science: On Contemporary Fiction, America in the Movies, and most recently Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much.