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Nureyev Novel


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While browsing through Barnes & Noble this afternoon, I came across a book called Dancer by Colum McCann that I don't remember reading about on Ballet Alert. It's a novel based on Nureyev's life. This is from the Publisher's Weekly review, as reproduced on the Amazon site:

A chorus of voices breathe new life into the story of Rudolf Nureyev, one of ballet's greatest performers, in this vibrant, imaginative patchwork of a novel by Irish expatriate McCann (This Side of Brightness, etc.). As a seven-year-old peasant boy in 1944, Rudi dances for wounded soldiers in a hospital ward during World War II. By the mid-1950s he has outgrown life in the tiny Soviet town of Ufa, his unfailing determination to perform (against the stern wishes of his father) driving him into the wider world. It is his stubborn persistence more than his natural talent that distinguishes him, but his first teachers see great potential in him, and he is accepted into a ballet company in Leningrad. He defects to France and later moves on to Italy, where "the ovations become more exhausting than the dance" and he is sucked into the drug and disco culture of the late '70s, even after his partner Margot Fonteyn urges him to stay focused. A relationship with New York gay hustler Victor Pareci allows Rudi to indulge his wildest impulses, but his brashness and self-absorption are tempered when he journeys back to his homeland in 1987 in the touching conclusion. The sections narrated by different characters, some central and some marginal, create a kaleidoscopic effect. Faithfully capturing the pathos and grim poverty of the Soviet Union at mid-century, McCann also reveals a splashy tabloid affinity for the excesses and effects of fame and notoriety. Though the focus here is narrower than that of McCann's previous works, the novel is a lovely showcase for his fluid prose and storytelling skill.
The Amazon site has a lengthy excerpt: go to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/080...8241573-5987003. (And, gentle reminder: if you decide to buy the book, using the Amazon link on Ballet Alert brings in revenue to the site. :) )
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Thank you, Ari. I've heard about this, but not seen it. I haven't been able to make it through the last two biographies of Nureyev (too many parties, too little tiime) and was rather afraid to go near this one. I hope someone will read it and report. (But if any life in ballet does NOT need novelization, couldn't one make the case that it's Nureyev's?)

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Guest lil_dancer

As soon as I can convince my mom I'm going to get that book. It sounds like a very good book. Thanx for posting about it! :)

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I have finished this book, and Alexandra is absolutely right in saying that this is not a book for young people, or even for easily dismayed older people since some of the situations are quite, shall we say, unconventional. Nor is it a book that should be classified as a "biography" since the author himself emphasizes the fictional nature of this "novel." The book is really Nureyev through the eyes of various family members, friends and acquaintances, observing him at various stages of his life from young childhood until late career. As a work of fiction, it has its strengths, but curiously the most endearing characters are the narrators themselves, rather than Nureyev. The form of the narrative suggests strongly that no one person knew, or could have known, him. There is also surprisingly little about dancing. Only once are we given an interior monologue by Nureyev himself while dancing, and it was, for me, the least vivid and genuine part of the book. I enjoyed reading this book, but I can only guardedly recommend it as a "ballet" book.

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