As a famed bodybuilder, actor, and political figure, Arnold Schwartzenegger has seemingly had an interesting, and at times, turbulent life. In his best-selling autobiography Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, Schwartzenegger pens a true-life tale that covers his childhood in Austria, his bodybuilding years in Los Angeles, and his political career as the Governor of California. Throughout the book, Schwartzenegger writes with clarity and honesty about his life, his triumphs, and his failures.
Born and raised in post-World War II Austria, Schwartzenegger tells a story of a quiet, rural hamlet with nearby feudal castles, catholic churches, and a gasthaus, or inn, as the social center of his town. He speaks loving of both parents, and claims for the most part to have had a pleasant childhood, but the one troubling aspect of growing up was his father’s propensity to come home intoxicated nearly every Friday night. On these nights, there was yelling and chaos. Neither of Schwarzenegger’s parents had a second thought about physical violence, and Schwartzenegger sates it was the norm during the time and location of his childhood. While topically, Schwartzenegger claims he wanted to be just like his father, he tells tale after tale of abuse, discipline, overboard punishment for the slightest offenses such as a misspelled word or a bad soccer play. While he felt this was normal, Schwartzenegger reflected later in the book that he chose not to repeat those types of behaviors with his own children.
As a teen, Schwartzenegger was athletic, and he began an interest in bodybuilding. This interest soon became a passion, or even an obsession, and he left his home at the age of 18 and served the required year in the Austrian Army. Leaving his strict but seemingly normal, or so he thought, childhood, Schwartzenegger made his way to Los Angeles to pursue a career in bodybuilding. His success is well-documented, culminating in multiple Mr. Universe titles. In describing this period of his life, Schwartzenegger is frank about the highlights and the pitfalls of both the bodybuilding business and his burgeoning fame.
After finding some amount of success in the United States and around the world in the bodybuilding circuits, Arnold lost both his brother and his father within a year. He did not attend either funeral, as he had not been close to them at the time of their individual deaths.
Not one to avoid controversy, Schwartzenegger then entered the movie industry followed by the political game in California. He starred in numerous action and comedy movies, and served as California’s governor from 2003 – 2011.
In my opinion, Schwartzenegger is an important figure to the bodybuilding world, the politics of California, and to Hollywood. He married into the Kennedy family, a family of Democrats, and as a Republican, he must have a very strong conviction and confidence to take on this very famous family. The world would be different if Schwartzenegger had not lived because he was able to open our eyes to other cultures – the culture of bodybuilding and the Austrian culture. Not many foreign-born citizens are a well-accepted into American politics as Schwartzenegger was.
If I met Arnold, I would likely ask him what it has been like being a part of the Kennedy family. They are an American icon in and of themselves. I’d also like to know if he thinks differently about his parents now that they are gone than he did when he was a child in Austria. His book seems to indicate that once he went away from Austria, he didn’t have much interest in returning or maintaining familial connections there, but he doesn’t write about hating his family or his childhood. This is part of the biography that is a bit conflicting and confusing. One last thing I would ask him is how he has changed his workout routine as he has aged. I would think it would be impossible to maintain the kind of workout schedule he had when he was competing and winning in the bodybuilding circuit.