cover image Private Confessions

Private Confessions

Ingmar Bergman. Arcade Publishing, $19.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-55970-364-2

Sweden in the 1920s is the locale of this intense novel by the famed Swedish film director. Feeling imprisoned in a 12-year marriage to a man she no longer loves, Anna Akerblom betrays her frequently absent husband, Henrik (a pastor), by engaging in a passionate, at times live-in liaison with his best friend, Tomas, a young theology student. Her admission of this scandalous affair poisons the atmosphere in which her children grow up. Bergman bases this lyrical, charged autobiographical novel on his parents' relationship and his troubled childhood, terrain explored with ruthless candor in his first two novels, The Best Intentions and Sunday's Children. Anna, his vital, wayward heroine, oscillates between joy and guilt, faith and doubt, rebellion and moral confusion as Bergman explores his lifelong themes: loneliness, the search for God, sin, salvation, free will, the mystery of death. Structured as a series of five ""conversations"" that reveal Bergman's mastery of dialogue and gift for setting scenes, the story jumps ahead to 1934 as Anna, who has jettisoned her illicit lover, visits the deathbed of the priest Jacob, her cancer-ridden father confessor. It twists back ironically to 1907, when Jacob warns 17-year-old Anna, just before her first communion, against infamies committed in the name of love. One senses that this dark gem of a novel, set in resonant prose as elegant as a classical sonata, is a catharsis for Bergman. (Jan.)