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New Book: Rene Blum and the Ballets Russes(Oxford University Press)


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#1 Helene

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 03:51 PM

We just got word that "Rene Blum and the Ballets Russes" by Judith Chazin-Bennahum is being published this month by Oxford University Press.

The biography of a fascinating cultural hero, Rene Blum and the Ballets Russes uncovers the events in the life of the enigmatic and brilliant writer and producer who perished in the Holocaust. Brother of Leon Blum, the first socialist prime minister of France, Rene Blum was a passionate and prominent litterateur. He was the editor of the chic literary journal Gil Blas where he met such celebrated figures as Claude Debussy, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Andre Gide, and Paul Valery. As author Judith Chazin-Bennahum's research illustrates, Blum actually arranged for the publication of Proust's Swann's Way. But Blum's accomplishments and legacy do not end there: after enlisting in World War I, he won the Croix de Guerre and became a national hero. And Blum resurrected the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo after Diaghilev's death. Tragically, he was arrested in 1941 during a roundup of Jewish intellectuals and ultimately sent to Auschwitz.

Based on a treasure trove of previously undiscovered letters and documents, this thoroughly researched narrative not only tells the poignant story of Blum's life but also illustrates Blum's central role in the development of dance in the United States. Indeed, Blum's efforts to save his ballet company eventually helped to bring many of the world's greatest dancers and choreographers--among them Fokine, Balanchine, and Nijinska--to American ballet stages, shaping the path of dance in the United States for years to come.


Full details are here:
http://www.oup.com/u...i=9780195399332

#2 sandik

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Posted 14 June 2011 - 10:12 PM

I saw this recently and didn't really have time to read thoroughly, but dipping in it looked fascinating, and I know the author to be both substantive and readable.

#3 bart

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 06:38 AM

It sounds like Blum's activities with the Ballets Russes were just one part of his artistic endeavors. Among other things, according to the Amazon site, he "arranaged for the publication of Proust's Swann's Way." Lynn Garafola's comment, quoted by Amazon, persuaded me to order the book.

Like a detective, Judith Chazin-Bennahum sets out to recover René Blum's fascinating and ultimately tragic life from the margins of history. Weaving him into the tapestry of the Belle Epoque and les années folles, she reveals a life devoted from childhood to the arts, a writer-turned-ballet impresario who brought taste, passion, and a rare gift for friendship to everything he did. The brother of Léon Blum, the first Socialist and first Jewish prime minister of France, René died in Auschwitz, a victim like so many others of Nazi racial hatred.

The hardcover (new) qualifies for free shipping. I notice -- a sign of the times -- that the Kindle ebook is quite a lot cheaper than the real book.

#4 Ballet Foot

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 11:57 AM

Thank you for letting us know about this new substantive book.....It should be fascinating and informative. It is of special interest for me, as I was very involved with BRdeMC and the wonderful dancers of that company during my growing up years. Happy to see that Mr. Blum and BRdeMC are receiving recognition for their contribution in shaping & developing ballet/dance in The United States.

We just got word that "Rene Blum and the Ballets Russes" by Judith Chazin-Bennahum is being published this month by Oxford University Press.

The biography of a fascinating cultural hero, Rene Blum and the Ballets Russes uncovers the events in the life of the enigmatic and brilliant writer and producer who perished in the Holocaust. Brother of Leon Blum, the first socialist prime minister of France, Rene Blum was a passionate and prominent litterateur. He was the editor of the chic literary journal Gil Blas where he met such celebrated figures as Claude Debussy, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Andre Gide, and Paul Valery. As author Judith Chazin-Bennahum's research illustrates, Blum actually arranged for the publication of Proust's Swann's Way. But Blum's accomplishments and legacy do not end there: after enlisting in World War I, he won the Croix de Guerre and became a national hero. And Blum resurrected the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo after Diaghilev's death. Tragically, he was arrested in 1941 during a roundup of Jewish intellectuals and ultimately sent to Auschwitz.

Based on a treasure trove of previously undiscovered letters and documents, this thoroughly researched narrative not only tells the poignant story of Blum's life but also illustrates Blum's central role in the development of dance in the United States. Indeed, Blum's efforts to save his ballet company eventually helped to bring many of the world's greatest dancers and choreographers--among them Fokine, Balanchine, and Nijinska--to American ballet stages, shaping the path of dance in the United States for years to come.


Full details are here:
http://www.oup.com/u...i=9780195399332



#5 Quiggin

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 02:01 PM

In the Tadie and Carter Proust biographies, Rene Blum, who was a schoolfriend of Proust, did negotiate the publication of Swann's Way with Proust's first publisher Grasset although he hadn't yet read the book. But it's a rather small part in the publication history of Proust's novel, which quite complex and takes place over many years and involves three publishers, and includes Andre Gide's rejection notice.

However as I remember Rene Blum does figure as the good guy who loses out to the unscrupulous Colonel (who may not have really been a colonel) de Basil in Danilova's memoir "Choura."

#6 Stage Right

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 03:48 PM

Thanks so much to everyone for bringing this book to my attention--it sounds like one I'd like to read. Lately I've been reading a lot of different books that explore, either directly or tangentially, the Ballet Russes in its various manifestations, so this will fit right in. I think I'll try to get it via inter-library loan.

#7 Helene

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 07:59 PM

I just finished the Kindle edition.

For the first 2/3 of the book, roughly until the byzantine workings of the various Ballets Russes splits, off-shoots, reorganizations, etc., the book is beautifully written, lucid, and organized. Once the Ballets Russes chapters begin, it read like a series of essays cobbled together, with repetition -- for example, Fleischmann, the businessman who financed the final sale of the company, is described three separate times -- and a mishmash of chronology that made cause-and-effect difficult to follow.

Blum comes across not only as one of the brilliant men of his era, erudite is many arts, and true to his upbringing, someone quite assured of his taste, but also as a mensch. Knowing that he would be interned and killed was a cloud over his story. He was not ruthless like Diaghilev, perhaps because he did not have to manipulate money from people to back his enterprises since he had institutional funding through the theater in Monte Carlo and a private fortune he spent on his ballet company, and, with the exception of one long-term relationship with the actress Josette France, didn't mix business with pleasure and seemed disinterested in creating emotional instability.


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