Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story

3.4 66
by Arnold Schwarzenegger

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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…  See more details below


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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Editorial Reviews

Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger requires no introduction, but his candid autobiography proves that there was still much that we didn't know about the iconic California "Governator," action movie star, body builder and weight lifter. A new view of a determined, ambitious man.

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Simon & Schuster
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Chapter 1

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.

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.

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Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
raisarobin More than 1 year ago
Schwarzenegger's new book isn't as bad as it could be. This is a decent autobiography, with plenty of memories and anecdotes. Like Arnold himself, the book is warm but so guarded I can't help but wonder what he's leaving out. This is not a racy tell-all. It is a not-bad account of an ambitious (but not remotely self-aware) man who has done a a fair amount of interesting things. Arnold's most candid memories come early in the book, with his accounts of childhood in Austria during the early days of the Cold War. He tells of snuggling with his brother and parents in bed during thunderstorms, of their house with no toilet, of being beaten by parents and teachers alike. There is insight into his father's bitterness and the futility of surviving in a country trying to find its footing in the wake of the Third Reich. From a young age, Arnold saw America as a beacon of strength and safety, and bodybuilding as the path to lead him there. He boldly recalls being "absolutely certain" he was special. From a young age, Schwarzenegger was shameless in going after what he wanted: he panhandled money to go to the toy store and movies, went AWOL from the military for a bodybuilding contest, and picked fights for thrills. His concern seems first and foremost about getting caught, and even in hindsight he seems unconcerned as to what this all might say about his character. He unblinkingly describes steroids and women ("one of my girlfriends was a stripper and the other was a gypsy.") But he's also sure to mention his gratitude for the parental figures who nurtured him along the way. In America, Arnold's cunning and determination bring success at bodybuilding, promotion, and various entrepreneurial endeavors. Some readers will think these parts are funny, like when he learned to lie about his zodiac signs to pick up girls and outwitted a competitor in a bodybuilding competition by working the crowd. When he gets into film and politics, the story becomes more scripted. He's a Republican because he sees this as the embodiment of the American Dream and views Democrats as "too Austrian." He can be genuinely egalitarian -- like openly promoting women in bodybuilding -- but also totally doesn't get it, like his approach to filming a scene with violence against women. There are lots of conversations with Sargent Shriver and George H.W. Bush (who, he'll have us know, was NOT a "waschlappen" - the Austrian word for "wet dishrag.") He describes mentors including Milton and Rose Friedman, James Earl Jones, Marvin Hier, and Andy Warhol. I'm not a film buff but I was interested in all the moviemaking, especially his work with James Cameron on the Terminator films. He might be at his best with inadvertent observations, like an overheard argument about race between Wilt Chamberlain and Grace Jones. For political fans, the section on his campaign and work as Governor of California are as straightforward as a press release but include a fair amount of detail about the political process. To his credit, he does try to explain why his policies, which can seem inconsistent, align with his goals and ideals. Of course, the object of his affection is Maria Shriver: the savvy, beautiful, energetic woman whose world was "big enough" for him even as she brought him a much-needed dose of common sense. He has only nice things to say about Maria (this also keeps him from being more candid about the Kennedy Family, wh
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have noticed other reviews are not even related to the book. They just criticize a few mistakes hes made in his career. I have read the complete book, and its a great story behind the making of a legend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I wouldn't classify myself as an Arnold "fan" I have certainly found most of the movies he was in quite entertaining. I purchased the book more out of curiousity than anything. The book was very well written, certainly entertaining, and I found it quite interesting with the detail of where he came from and what was encountered along the journey of his life essentially right up until current. Essentially a "rags to riches" story that truly emphasizes the opportunities that lay in waiting here in the USA for those with determination and drive to pursue a dream. A fairly short sentence toward the end brought out the feelings of a remorseful person with regards to his recent relationship with his wife...something I was not expecting. A recommended, entertaining read.
lopaka47 More than 1 year ago
Coming as he did from extremely modest conditions as a child growing up in Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger's life story is one that has the power to inspire all who have a dream. It is also a cautionary tale, of what can happen when you reach a point in life where you are so successful that you sometimes think the rules can be bent to suit the situation. Even with the missteps he has taken along the way (as have we all), as a fellow "Baby Boomer" I still respect the man. And after reading his book I will continue to wish Mr. Schwarzenegger well in all his future efforts, both onscreen and off.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have lived in NorCal and SoCal both, all my life, and had no idea how much influence He had on Real Estate, especially around Venice. It reads as if he is talking into a recorder that is typing his exact words; it makes it that much more personal. Very intriguing and interesting to find out so much more about him because he has never been a 'dig me' kind of guy, to the general public. Made mistakes in his personal life, but in general, the kind of entrepreneur that should be an inspiration to anyone who thinks 'they can't'.
Captdocsabre More than 1 year ago
A fairy tale that came true ,told with such down to earth jargon, clear and distinct, I will trade my polyester curtains and the redwood deck for one hour in his shoes. Parents read this one to your kids. This man is real and I get to watch him on the big screen again.
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
Don’t call it a comeback. In what I can only describe as my favorite autobiographical book of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger presents his entire life story in such an intriguing and humorous manner that I didn’t even mind in the slightest when he delved into an area I wasn’t interested in (politics). At almost no time in my life have I found the political process to be fun or interesting, but leave it to Arnold to make it so. Schwarzenegger’s life is really quite astounding when you begin from his humble roots in Austria and journey with him as he ascends to the top of pretty much every mountain he feels like climbing. His story is inspiring and really shows Arnold’s personal sense of humor throughout. An impressive amount of candid photos from all parts of his life are included, my favorite being a shot of him (with long Conan hair) and his body building construction buddies standing on the top of a roof they’re working on. It just looks so bonkers! Would you hire a superhero to re-shingle your roof? I don’t know, but that’s a great picture. This is a big book about a big larger than life dude. He was the action hero of my childhood and I doubt we will ever see his equal. The stories and anecdotes he has to tell are captivating and I loved every page of this.
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Arnold came to America with a vision! Some would call it luck, others call it fate, whatever it was Arnold always followed his true ambitions and never took no for an answer! This story shows that if you dream it, do not take no for answer, and simply work hard to follow your goals and dreams, you too can have success! A great read for anyone looking for inspiration to follow their dream!
maximus1 More than 1 year ago
Always admired Arnold coming to this country and making a name for himself with body building, acting and politics. Didn't know he's done so much more with reall estate and special olympics. For all his success like everyone else has character defects and like everyone else has faced his Incomprehsible Demoralization as he stated in the chapter The Secret. It was a good read and his last 10 rules for success i think is a good advice.
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michelleneuf91 More than 1 year ago
First of all, I have always liked Arnold because I remember thirty years ago my spouse would love to take me to see "CONAN"... and about that time when our daughter was about two, he would want to make her feel strong and hold her hand and take a walk  around the theater and tell her gently, that she was CONAN.....I guess to fear not.....I would smile and watch them.    Then, about twenty or so years ago, I stood in line around the block to wait to get assigned copy of Schwarsenegger's book for my daughter ote....stupid choices about sex ....and again his recall of harsh war memories impacting children..I guess I like reading about his resilience
Paul-Kyriazi More than 1 year ago
If you want to know a book about Arnold, this is the book to read. I think he inadvertantly shows his ruthfulness in the body building story were he faked his last competitor to walk of the stage as if he gave up. He tells the guy, "Let's walk off." Arnold fakes one step, the other guy walks off, Arnold looks at him like 'he's given up' and goes into another pose. The guy come walking back, but it's too late. The damage is done. I ask myself, is that bad sportsmanship or is all fair in love and business. And being a body building champion opens doors for the winner. That's just one inadvertant character reveal that Arnold does. It's like three books in one, body building, movies and govener. What impresses me that when Arnold decided to do this book he make it a big 600 page project. Like a big movie. I admire that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
an ok read, but no great annecdotal stories that warrant a 600 page book
XX More than 1 year ago
Well written, entertaining, inspiring and thoughtful. I would recommend reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always been a fan of his movies, but now I am a fan of him as a person. It was amazing to me to understand just how focused and determined he is and always has been. This is a great example of how anyone can acheive their goals and dreams if they are willing to work hard! Well done Arnold!!
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