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Nureyev: The Life (Anglais) Relié – 2 octobre 2007


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Chapter 1: A Vagabond Soul

Early one morning when six-year-old Rosa Kolesnikova woke up, she remembered first of all that she was on the train, and then she noticed the three Nureyev girls sitting on the bunk opposite. The toddler was whimpering, and her eight-year-old sister was trying to comfort her. She saw to her annoyance that her friend Lilia, who was also six, had taken her toy and was clutching it. Their mother was nowhere to be seen. Something was going on. In the corridor people were rushing back and forth talking excitedly, but no one would say what was happening. Later she noticed that next door there were sheets curtaining off the Nureyev compartment and doctors in white coats were going in and out. Tyotya-Farida must be ill. Throughout the morning, making some excuse, she and the other children walked by to see if they could peek through a crack in the screen of sheets, but her mother would call them back and try to distract them. “Look, Lake Baikal! Lake Baikal! Isn’t it beautiful?” she cried.

It was a cold, clear morning, and the lake, a sunlit ocean of ice, seemed to merge with the far-off white mountain ridges of Khamar Daban. For most of the day the train traveled along the southwestern shore beneath sheer cliffs and steep woods, offering sudden dazzling views of Baikal as it threaded through the tunnels. With its legend of the vengeful Old Man Baikal, who hurled a huge rock at his runaway daughter, the lake was a wonder for children: Its size alone was breathtaking—four hundred miles long and one mile deep in the middle. By late afternoon, however, its fascination had worn off, and everyone was glad to get to the Mongolian city of Ulan-Ude, where the train stopped for several hours.

Almost all the passengers went into town to shop in the trading arcades and the poplar-lined main street, Leninskaya Ulitsa. When they returned, one or two of the women came up to the children with a large box and told them to look inside. There they saw a tiny baby swaddled tightly: “We bought him in Ulan-Ude,” they said, laughing. “It’s a little Tatar brother for the Nureyev girls!” Rosa found this hard to believe. It didn’t make sense that a Tatar child would be for sale in a place full of people who looked so foreign, with their big foreheads and slanting eyes. Besides, before they arrived, she had heard the adults talking about a new baby on the train. Rosa had a six-month-old brother of her own, but even so she was full of envy of the Nureyev sisters and tremendously excited. “We were all in ecstasies, and in the carriage there was such jubilation! It was like a holiday, with everyone happy and wanting to share in the celebration.”

Word of the event spread quickly, and for the rest of the day people crowded into the carriage to see the new arrival: Rudolf Nureyev’s first audience. His birth, he would later say, was the most romantic event of his life, symbolic of his future statelessness and nomadic existence. It was to be a life lived mostly en route to places, navigated by what he called his “vagabond soul.” To Rosa he was never Rudolf or even Rudik, its diminutive, but Malchik kotoriy rodilsay v poezde said in one breath as a name: The-boy-who-was-born-on-a-train.



The order for the soldiers’ families to leave had come suddenly. Almost full term in her pregnancy, Farida Nureyev knew she was taking a risk by traveling at this stage, but she had had no choice. For the last two months, Farida and Ekaterina, Rosa’s mother, had regularly gone together to the authorities to find out when they were going to be permitted to join their husbands, who were serving in the Red Army’s Far Eastern Division. One delay had followed another until at last, at the beginning of March 1938, the wives were told that a military train would be leaving that night.

The children were asleep by the time the trucks arrived, and after waking them and bundling them in blankets, Farida left the barracks of Alkino, her home for the past nine months, and started for the station in Ufa, about forty kilometers away, where the train was waiting. There were two carriages set aside for the women and children, and a special wagon for their luggage. The compartments opened straight onto the corridor without the privacy of doors, but they were clean and quite comfortable, with an unoccupied single row of bunks on the opposite side, which all the children on the train immediately converted into a play area. “It was the best of times! There was such a spirit of adventure and excitement.” Most of the wives were young, already friends, and delighted to be going to their husbands, whom they hadn’t seen for several months. They were all very kind and solicitous toward Farida, making sure she had everything she needed, and each day one of the two doctors on board would come and check up on her.

The train traveled at varying speeds, sometimes racketing along, sometimes stopping for hours while waiting to be hooked up to another engine. At stations there was usually a straggle of babushki selling little piles of wares—scallions, pickled gherkins, curds, smoked fish— but the women rarely bought anything, as the soldiers appointed to take care of them brought them provisions as well as hot water for tea and for washing. The children would have liked to get out and run along the platform, but their mothers were reluctant to let them go: They never knew when the train was going to leave. After nearly two weeks of traveling, everyone was growing restless, “Is the Far East far?” became the children’s endless refrain. “That’s why the day the little boy was born stuck in the memory. Given all the monotony, expectation, and boredom, you couldn’t forget such an event in a lifetime.”

Rudolf Nureyev was “shaken out of the womb” as the train ran alongside Lake Baikal around midday on March 17, 1938. Farida was euphoric. Not only was the baby born safely, but at last she had the son her husband longed for. When the train stopped in Ulan-Ude, she asked one of the women to accompany her eldest daughter, also called Rosa, a solemn, responsible girl, to send a telegram to her husband, Hamet, with the news, even though she felt sure he wouldn’t believe it. Once before, when her second daughter, Lilia, was born, Farida had sent word that she had given birth to a boy—“She lied because she longed to make him happy,” Rudolf wrote in his memoir. It is far more likely, however, that as Hamet’s work kept him away for long periods, her motive was to persuade him to return to their village. If so, it worked. “Overjoyed, Father came home on leave as soon as he could and found out that the ‘boy’ was Lida [Lilia]. He was speechless and utterly miserable.”



By 1938 Farida had been married to Hamet for nearly nine years, although they had spent much of that time apart. When they first met, in the city of Kazan in the late twenties, he was still a student, studying Tatar philology and the new ideology of Communism at the academy there. He was not then the rigid army officer he later became, but a debonair young man full of ambition and ideals. A studio portrait of Hamet at twenty-five, dressed in pinstripe trousers, dress shirt, and bow tie, shows him sitting at a café table with an equally handsome friend, cigarette in hand; they look like a pair of Parisian flaneurs. Two years younger than Hamet and also of slight build, Farida herself was extremely attractive, with long sleek black hair parted in the middle, and dark round eyes. She rarely laughed, but had a quiet sense of humor that showed in her wry, closed smile: “It came from inside as in a Rembrandt picture.” Although she had no education, she was bright and, like Hamet, self-confident and proud, giving relatives the impression that they both considered themselves a touch above their families.

The couple could not have chosen a more romantic place for their courtship than Kazan, with its elegant arcades and parks, and its skyline of minarets. There was a summer theater, a bandstand and chairs, the beautiful fountain encircled with birch trees in the Lyadskoy Gardens, and the limestone-white kremlin on the hill from which one could look down at the boats far below on the Kazanka River. They both retained their nostalgia for the city, and years later would sing such Kazakh duets together as the “Tower of Kazan,” a plaintive ballad about the Tatar queen who chose to jump to her death from its upper terrace rather than forsake her birthplace. Before the revolution, Kazan had ninety-one houses of worship— monasteries, mosques, and cathedrals—but by 1928, when Hamet and Farida were living there, many had been demolished by the Bolsheviks or were being used as administrative and storage buildings. Although brought up as Muslims—Hamet’s father was a mullah—both were now party members, having been more than willing to exchange their religious beliefs for faith in the Communist regime. For them, as Rudolf said, the revolution was “a miracle,” opening up the possibility of educating themselves and sending their children to university, an opportunity previously undreamed of by peasant families.

Tugulbay, where Farida was born in 1905, was a large, relatively wealthy Tatar village near Kazan. Most households had a cow, but her parents, the Agilivulyevni, were poor, as there were four daughters and only one son to work the land. Farida’s brother, Valiula, was fifteen years older than she, and when their mother and father died during the typhus epidemic, he took her and her three sisters—Gafia, Gandalip, and Sharide—to live with his family in the city. Valiula’s second wife, who was much younger than her husband, resented the sudden arrival of the four girls and loaded them with domestic chores. He, on the other hand, was kind ...

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"Not only the best biography of a ballet figure but, far more important, a Proustian recollection of that glamorous near-mythical time, the first half of our now setting century."
--Gore Vidal

"[Julie Kavanagh is] a Nancy Mitford of ballet, mingling gossip, social history, and critical commentary. London in the twenties and thirties... is re-created from personal accounts rendered at first hand, not mined from books."
--Arlene Croce, The New Yorker

"Both critically authoritative and juicily anecdotal... An evident affection for England's first great choreographer doesn't stop Kavanagh from making fun of Ashton's unbridled snobbery and legendary meanness."
--Miranda Seymour, The Sunday Times (London)

"A remarkable achievement. It is fresh, crisp, and clear... An intimate and compelling portrait of a great artist."
--Howard Hodgkin

"A razor-sharp, often uproariously funny portrait of a demi-monde [that] is fascinating even to those poor souls with zero enthusiasm for ballet."
--Rupert Christiansen, The Spectator


Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 800 pages
  • Editeur : Pantheon; Édition : 1st American Edition (2 octobre 2007)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0375405135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375405136
  • Dimensions du produit: 22,4 x 18,8 x 4,9 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 510.842 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Par Stephanie Boloux sur 17 mai 2014
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Parfaitement écrit et illustré de rares photos , pour qui s'intéresse à ce formidable danseur.....ce livre est un veritable régal!
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
cette bio étant la bio "officielle", je craignais le style hagiographie ; il n'en est rien ; on sent chez l'auteur de ce livre un profond respect pour les danseurs en général et c'est la passion de la danse qui anime ses pages ;
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42 internautes sur 46 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
ALL RUDI, ALL THE TIME 8 novembre 2007
Par John Stahle - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Kavanagh's "Nureyev" is another first-rate dance biography, fully matching her marvelous account of Frederick Ashton. Nureyev was more a great star than a great dancer, yet his impact on male ballet dancers worldwide was transformative. Before Rudi, they were mostly earthbound dullards, either crudely straight or mincingly effeminate; after Rudi, men in ballet became nearly as turned out, pulled up, and extended as ballerinas, with a protean animalism that enabled them to live gay yet seem to love their women onstage.

Unlike her predecessor Richard Buckle, whose dance bios read like transcribed engagement books, Kavanagh offers a nearly perfect balance of details and distillation, compellingly tracing arcs in her subject's life. She pays extra attention to Rudi's first years in the West, richly detailing his two key relationships--with Margot Fonteyn, whom he ignited just as she was about to retire, and with Eric Bruhn, the one dancer he would learn from and the love of his life--plus the recasting of his dancing into a fusion of Russian and Western. Rudi's restless gay life is all there, yet without prurience. Eventually he settled down, for a time, with Wallace Potts, an all-American gay boy whose goodness and devotion shine through quite attractively (other acolytes followed). In these pages, Rudi lives just like a coddled star athlete: no matter how beastly his conduct, somebody always satisfies his needs and keeps his ego fully inflated. A fine biography and a great read.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The man and his amazing talent 27 décembre 2007
Par Armchair Interviews - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Rudolf Nureyev, flamboyant dancer with the Kirov Ballet of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), began life on a train to the Eastern Russian front. He was the son of Tatar parents from a remote part of the Soviet Union. His father was a soldier who was rarely home. The family was extremely poor and often hungry, but his mother managed to sneak them into a performance of a ballet when Rudolf was five. He was determined from that time on to learn to dance and perform on the stage. He had the talent, determination and perseverance to succeed.

Julie Kavanagh has documented the life of this dancing man in this encyclopedic volume. She includes information about Nureyev's early training in his hometown, Ufa, his extensive training with mentor Pushkin and Pushkin's wife, Xenia in St. Petersburg. She details his defection to the West in Paris that read like a spy novel - complete with KGB operatives.

Nureyev passion for dance and for learning propels him to work with choreographers from the Paris Opera Ballet to West Side Story. Kavanagh includes titillating factoids about Nureyev's personal life - hobnobbing with the rich and famous, his womanizing, his homosexual lifestyle, and his final battle with HIV/AIDS. She also talks about his dancing.

Nureyev is first and foremost a ballet dancer and she documents his transition from the formal classical ballet style to the avant-garde modern dance styles he helped to create.

This tome, and it is a tome of nearly 700 pages without counting the extensive footnotes, acknowledgements and index, is an extensive account of a fascinating person. It is quite readable, with the caveat that there are multitudinous Russian names, ballet terminologies, and musical references. These kept me reading somewhat slower than usual.

The book also has three large sections of photographic illustrations.

Armchair Interviews says: Anyone with a strong interest in ballet history or in Nureyev himself will find this to be a very satisfying book.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Under the Spell of Nureyev 7 juillet 2009
Par tk - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Julie Kavanagh is so realistic approaching Nureyev, not being under the spell of his character as most biographers do, yet, she puts you under the spell of Nureyev througout the book... and even days and days after finishing the book... You hate Nureyev, you adore Nureyev, you pity Nureyev, you love Nureyev, you admire Nureyev, you're angry towards Nureyev and thus, you live Nureyev... you live in his lonely world, you feel his frustrations, you taste his success, you touch his body... and in the end, you die with him... Such an encompassing book...
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Love it, love him 20 septembre 2011
Par Cherry Radford - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I'm staggered by some of the critical reviews here; I find it a very sympathetic, beautifully written and seemingly well-researched account. I fell in love with him. A narcissistic, impetuous, difficult man with (delightfully) filthy language - but also a hard working, striving-to-learn genius, and a kind and generous friend. A fascinating, essential balletomane read.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Learning Ballet through a Life 22 août 2011
Par FJ Sullivan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Ms. Kavanagh's biography of Rudolph Nureyev provided me with an unexpected education of the world of ballet, about which I have know very little. I bought the book because as a young student I had seen Nureyev in Paris in June of 1961 in Sleeping Beauty at the Palais des Sports prior to sailing home to New York. It was while I was crossing the Atlantic that Nureyev defected. I still have the program from that ballet in Paris. With that much personal interest the well researched book transported me to the event in 1961 with the details of the defection which I have never known and filled in for me all the years afterwards until his death. I never saw him dance again after Paris where he was so impressive I remember how focused I was on his dancing ...really transfixed by his athleticism and presence. This book, which I purchased through Amazon, is an excellent preparation for understanding the complexity of ballet and for watching Nureyev's skills on videos...FJ Sullivan
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