Book cover
I Am the Most Interesting Book of All
Marie Bashkirtsef

Marie Bashkirtsef painted one of my all-time favorite portraits. She also plays a role in one of my all-time favorite memoirs, I Await the Devil’s Coming. So I have had this, her teenage diary, on my TBR list for a long time.

Portrait of a Woman by Marie Bashkirtsef

Portrait of a Woman by Marie Bashkirtsef

Taken all together it’s a bit of a slog, but it is also at times totally engrossing. Marie is undeniably a natural writer, and she gives us a close portrayal of the life of a girl in the late 1800s in European society. She is dramatic (“I’m condemned to a slow martyrdom.”), funny (“I am the bravest when there’s nothing to be brave about.”), vain (“We were very beautiful, the two of us, my dog and I.”), judgemental (“Here is a woman who will pass her life in church and in bed.”), and sometimes surprisingly self-aware (“I don’t know whether I am truly in love or only amused.”).

The book gets its title from this delightful line about halfway through: “I am going to write instead of reading because I am the most interesting book of all.” Her ambition is on display all through the book (“I was born to be a remarkable woman.”, “I weary of my obscurity.”).

And she is expressive. Who has ever tried to write and not felt this:

I just read my pages from yesterday. Why can we not write as we think? Who will invent the art of reflecting, as in a mirror, all we think and feel? I thought I would find my memories from yesterday again—a picture of what was happening in me—but I found only some paper with ink on it!

Hanging over the whole thing is the reader’s sad awareness that this vibrant girl is destined to die young. It is a remarkable gift she has given us.