One of the most anticipated autobiographies of this generation, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall is the candid story by one of the world’s most remarkable actors, businessmen, and world leaders.
THE GREATEST IMMIGRANT SUCCESS STORY OF OUR TIME
His story is unique, and uniquely entertaining, and he tells it brilliantly in these pages.
He was born in a year of famine, in a small Austrian town, the son of an austere police chief. He dreamed of moving to America to become a bodybuilding champion and a movie star.
By the age of twenty-one, he was living in Los Angeles and had been crowned Mr. Universe.
Within five years, he had learned English and become the greatest bodybuilder in the world.
Within ten years, he had earned his college degree and was a millionaire from his business enterprises in real estate, landscaping, and bodybuilding. He was also the winner of a Golden Globe Award for his debut as a dramatic actor in Stay Hungry.
Within twenty years, he was the world’s biggest movie star, the husband of Maria Shriver, and an emerging Republican leader who was part of the Kennedy family.
Thirty-six years after coming to America, the man once known by fellow bodybuilders as the Austrian Oak was elected governor of California, the seventh largest economy in the world.
He led the state through a budget crisis, natural disasters, and political turmoil, working across party lines for a better environment, election reforms, and bipartisan solutions.
With Maria Shriver, he raised four fantastic children. In the wake of a scandal he brought upon himself, he tried to keep his family together.
Until now, he has never told the full story of his life, in his own voice.
Here is Arnold, with total recall.
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Arnold Schwarzenegger served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011. Before that, he had a long career, starring in such films as the Terminator series; Stay Hungry; Twins; Predator; and Junior. His first book, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, was a bestseller when published in 1977 and, along with his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, has never been out of print since.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Out of Austria
I WAS BORN INTO a year of famine. It was 1947, and Austria was occupied by the Allied armies that had defeated Hitler’s Third Reich. In May, two months before I was born, there were hunger riots in Vienna, and in Styria, the southeastern province where we lived, the food shortages were just as bad. Years later, if my mother wanted to remind me about how much she and my father sacrificed to bring me up, she’d tell me how she’d foraged across the countryside, making her way from farm to farm to collect a little butter, some sugar, some grain. She’d be away three days sometimes. Hamstern, they called it, like a hamster gathering nuts; scrounging for food was so common.
Thal was the name of our very typical farm village. A few hundred families made up the entire population, their houses and farms clustered in hamlets connected by footpaths and lanes. The unpaved main road ran for a couple of kilometers up and down low alpine hills covered with fields and pine forests.
We saw very little of the British forces who were in charge—just an occasional truck with soldiers rolling through. But to the east, Russians occupied the area, and we were very conscious of them. The Cold War had begun, and we all lived in fear that the Russian tanks would roll in, and we’d be swallowed up into the Soviet empire. The priests in church would scare the congregation with horror stories of Russians shooting babies in the arms of their mothers.
Our house was on the top of a hill along the road, and as I was growing up, it was unusual to see more than one or two cars come through a day. A ruined castle dating back to feudal times was right across from us, one hundred yards from our door.
On the next rise were the mayor’s office; the Catholic church where my mother made us all go to Sunday Mass; the local Gasthaus, or inn, which was the social heart of the village; and the primary school attended by me and my brother, Meinhard, who was a year older than me.
My earliest memories are of my mother washing clothes and my father shoveling coal. I was no more than three years old, but the image of my father is especially sharp in my mind. He was a big, athletic guy, and he did a lot of things himself. Every autumn we’d get our winter supply of coal, a truckload dumped in front of our house, and on this occasion he was letting Meinhard and me help him carry it into the cellar. We were always so proud to be his assistants.
My father and mom both originally came from working-class families farther north—factory laborers, mostly, in the steel industry. During the chaos at the end of World War II, they’d met in the city of Mürzzuschlag, where my mother, Aurelia Jadrny, was a clerk in a food-distribution center at city hall. She was in her early twenties, and a war widow—her husband had gotten killed just eight months after their wedding. Working at her desk one morning, she noticed my father passing on the street—an older guy, in his late thirties, but tall and good looking and wearing the uniform of the gendarmerie, the rural police. She was crazy about men in uniforms, so every day after that she watched for him. She figured out when his shift was so she would be sure to be at her desk. They’d talk through the open window, and she’d give him some food from whatever they had on hand.
His name was Gustav Schwarzenegger. They got married late in 1945. He was thirty-eight, and she was twenty-three. My father was assigned to Thal and put in charge of a four-man post responsible for the village and nearby countryside. The salary was barely enough to live on, but with the job came a place to live: the old forester’s lodge, or Forsthaus. The forest ranger, or Forstmeister, lived on the ground floor, and the Inspektor and his family occupied the top.
My boyhood home was a very simple stone and brick building, well proportioned, with thick walls and little windows to keep out the alpine winters. We had two bedrooms, each with a coal oven for heat, and a kitchen, where we ate, did our homework, washed ourselves, and played games. The heat in that room was supplied by my mother’s stove.
There was no plumbing, no shower, and no flushing toilet, just a kind of chamber pot. The nearest well was almost a quarter mile away, and even when it was raining hard or snowing, one of us had to go. So we used as little water as we could. We’d heat it and fill the washbasin and give ourselves sponge or cloth baths—my mother would wash herself first with the clean water; next, my father would wash himself; and then Meinhard and I would have our turn. It didn’t matter if we had slightly darker water as long as we could avoid a trip to the well.
We had wood furniture, very basic, and a few electric lamps. My father liked pictures and antiques, but when we were growing up, these were luxuries he couldn’t afford. Music and cats brought liveliness to our house. My mother played the zither and sang us songs and lullabies, but it was my father who was the real musician. He could play all the wind and reed instruments: trumpets, flügelhorns, saxophones, clarinets. He also wrote music and was the conductor of the region’s gendarmerie band—if a police officer died anywhere in the state, the band would play at the funeral. Often on Sundays in summer, we’d go to concerts in the park, where he would conduct and sometimes play. Most of our relatives on his side were musical, but that talent never made it to Meinhard or me.
I’m not sure why we had cats instead of dogs—maybe because my mother loved them and they cost nothing because they caught their own food. But we always had lots of cats, running in and out, curling up here and there, bringing down half-dead mice from the attic to show off what great hunters they were. Everyone had his or her own cat to curl up with in bed at night—that was our tradition. At one point, we had seven cats. We loved the cats, but never too much, because there was no such thing as going to the vet. If one of the cats started falling over from being too sick or too old, we’d wait to hear the shot from the backyard—the sound of my father’s pistol. My mother, Meinhard, and I would then go out and make a grave with a little cross on top.
My mother had a black cat named Mooki that she constantly claimed was unique, although none of us could see why. One day when I was about ten, I was arguing with my mother about not wanting to do my homework. Mooki was nearby, curled up on the couch, as usual. I must have said something really uppity because my mother moved to smack me across the face. I saw it coming and tried to fend her off, but instead I hit her with the back of my arm. In a second, Mooki was off the couch—she leaped up between us and started clawing at my face. I pulled her off me and yelled, “Ow! What is this!?” Mom and I looked at each other and burst out laughing, even though I had blood running down my cheek. Finally, she had proof that Mooki was special.
After the turmoil of the war, my parents’ big desire was for us to be stable and safe. My mother was a big, square-built woman, solid and resourceful, and she was also a traditional hausfrau who kept the house immaculately clean. She’d roll up the rugs and get down on her hands and knees with a brush and soap and scrub the planking, and then dry it off with rags. She was fanatical about keeping our clothes neatly hung and our sheets and towels precisely folded, with razor-sharp corners at the edge. Out back, she planted beets and potatoes and berries to keep us fed, and in fall she would put up preserves and sauerkraut in thick glass jars for the winter. Always when my father came home from the police station at twelve thirty, mom would be ready with lunch, and again with supper when he came home precisely at six o’clock.
The finances were her job too. Having been a clerk, she was very organized and was good at writing and math. Each month when my father brought home his pay, she’d leave him five hundred schillings for pocket money and take the rest for running the house. She handled all the family’s correspondence and paid the monthly bills. Once a year, always in December, she took us shopping for clothes. We’d ride a bus to the Kastner & Öhler department store just over the next ridge, in Graz. The old building had only two or three floors, but in our minds it was as big as the Mall of America. It had escalators and a metal and glass elevator, so we could see everything as we rode up and down. Mom would buy just the absolute necessities for us, shirts and underwear and socks and so forth, and these would be delivered to our house the next day in neat brown paper bundles. Installment plans were new then, and she really liked being able to pay off a fraction of the bill each month until it was all paid. Liberating people like my mom to shop was a good way to stimulate the economy.
She took charge of medical problems too, even though my father was the one trained to deal with emergencies. My brother and I had every possible childhood illness, from mumps to scarlet fever to measles, so she got lots of practice. Nothing stopped her: one winter night when we were toddlers, Meinhard had pneumonia, and there was no doctor or ambulance to be had. Leaving me home with my dad, my mother bundled Meinhard on her back and hiked more than two miles in the snow to the hospital in Graz.
My father was a lot more complicated. He could be generous and affectionate, especially with her. They loved each other intensely. You could see it in the way she brought him coffee and in the way he was always finding small gifts for her, and hugging her and patting her on the behind. They shared their affection with us: we always got to cuddle up with them in bed, especially if we were scared by thunder and lightning.
But about once a week, usually on Friday night, my father would come home drunk. He’d been out until two or three or four in the morning, drinking at his usual table at the Gasthaus with the locals, often including the priest, the school principal, and the mayor. We’d wake up to hear him banging around in a rage and yelling at my mom. The anger never lasted, and the next day he’d be sweet and nice and take us to lunch or give us gifts to make up. If we misbehaved, however, he would smack us or use his belt on us.
To us, all this seemed totally normal: everybody’s dad used physical punishment and came home drunk. One father who lived near us pulled his son’s ears and chased him with a thin, flexible stick that he’d soaked in water to make it hurt more. The drinking seemed like just a part of the camaraderie, which was usually much more benign. Sometimes the wives and families would be invited to join their husbands at the Gasthaus. We kids always felt honored to sit with the adults and then be treated to dessert. Or we’d be allowed into the next room and drink a little Coca-Cola and play board games and look at magazines or the TV. We’d be sitting there at midnight thinking, “Wow, this is terrific!”
It took me years to understand that behind the Gemütlichkeit there was bitterness and fear. We were growing up among men who felt like a bunch of losers. Their generation had started World War II and lost. During the war, my father had left the gendarmerie to become a policeman in the German army. He’d served in Belgium and France, and in North Africa, where he caught malaria. In 1942 he barely escaped being captured at Leningrad, the bloodiest battle of the war. The building he was in was blown up by the Russians. He was trapped under rubble for three days. His back was broken, and he had shrapnel in both legs. It took months in a Polish hospital before he recovered enough to come home to Austria and rejoin the civilian police. And who knows how long it took his psychic wounds to heal, given all that he had witnessed? I heard them talk about it when they were drunk, and can imagine how painful it was for them. They were all beaten and also frightened that any day the Russians might come and take them away to rebuild Moscow or Stalingrad. They were angry. They tried to suppress the rage and humiliation, but disappointment was deep in their bones. Think about it: you are promised you will be a citizen of a great new empire. Every family will have the latest conveniences. Instead, you come home to a land in ruins, there’s very little money, food is scarce, everything needs to be rebuilt. The occupying forces are there, so you’re not even in charge of your country anymore. Worst of all, you have no way to process what you’ve experienced. How could you cope with that unbelievable trauma when no one was supposed to talk about it?
Instead, the Third Reich was being officially erased. All public servants—local officials, schoolteachers, police—had to go through what the Americans called denazification. You were questioned, and your record was examined to determine if you had been really hard-core or in a position to commit war crimes. Everything having to do with the Nazi era was confiscated: books, films, posters—even your personal journals and photographs. You had to give over everything: the war was supposed to be erased from your mind.
Meinhard and I were only faintly aware of it. In our house was a beautiful picture book that we would borrow to play priest and pretend it was the Bible because it was much larger than our actual family Bible. One of us would stand and hold it open while the other would say Mass. The book was actually a do-it-yourself album for promoting the mighty accomplishments of the Third Reich. There were sections for different categories, such as public works, tunnels and dams under construction, Hitler’s rallies and speeches, great new ships, new monuments, great battles being fought in Poland. Each category had blank pages that were numbered, and whenever you went to the store and bought something or invested in a war bond, you would get a photo to match up with a number and paste into your book. When the collection was complete, you’d win a prize. I loved the pages that showed magnificent train stations and powerful locomotives spouting steam, and I was mesmerized by the picture of two men riding a little open flat handcar on the track, pumping the lever up and down to move themselves along—that seemed like adventure and freedom to me.
Meinhard and I had no idea what we were looking at, but one day when we went to play priest, the album was gone. We searched everywhere. Finally, I asked my mother where the beautiful book had disappeared: after all, that was our Bible! All she would say was, “We had to give it up.” Later I would say to my father, “Tell me about the war,” or ask him questions about what he did or went through. His reply was always, “There’s nothing to talk about.”
His answer to life was discipline. We had a strict routine that nothing could change: we’d get up at six, and it would be my job or Meinhard’s to get milk from the farm next door. When we were a little older and starting to play sports, exercises were added to the chores, and we had to earn our breakfast by doing sit-ups. In the afternoon, we’d finish our homework and chores, and my father would make us practice soccer no matter how bad the weather was. If we messed up on a play, we knew we’d get yelled at.
My father believed just as strongly in training our brains. After Mass on Sunday, he’d take us on a family outing: visiting another village, maybe, or seeing a play, or watching him perform with the police band. Then in the evening we had to write a report on our activities, ten pages at least. He’d hand back our papers with red ink scribbled all over them, and if we had spelled a word wrong,...
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