Nureyev: His Life

Nureyev: His Life

by Diane Solway

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Everyone knows the name Rudolf Nureyev, but does anyone know the man behind the myth? Diane Solway does; she spent over four years and conducted more than 200 interviews with his family, his friends and lovers, his colleagues, and even his doctors to research Nureyev: His Life the first book to capture him as he was onstage and off -- a great artist whose talent was…  See more details below


Everyone knows the name Rudolf Nureyev, but does anyone know the man behind the myth? Diane Solway does; she spent over four years and conducted more than 200 interviews with his family, his friends and lovers, his colleagues, and even his doctors to research Nureyev: His Life the first book to capture him as he was onstage and off -- a great artist whose talent was matched only by his steely will to succeed. Here is his professional career: his famed partnership with Margot Fonteyn, his personal transformation of the Royal Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet, his impact on dance companies all over the world, his collaborations with Martha Graham and Paul Taylor, and, behind all his accomplishments, the athletic grace and profound understanding that was his gift of genius. Here, too, is the private Nureyev: his Soviet childhood, his inner demons, the men and women who were willing to devote their lives to him. Solway chronicles his flamboyant, extravagant lifestyle, his celebrity-studded circle of friends -- Jacqueline Onassis, Andy Warhol, and Marlene Dietrich, to name only three -- his stormy love affairs, his homosexual promiscuity, and his death from AIDS in 1993. Nureyev was his own masterpiece, a man always in the process of reinventing himself. Diane Solway's superb biography is as brilliant and as fascinating as the dazzling dancer at

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Editorial Reviews
He brought male dancers out of the shadows and into the spotlight; his athleticism and magnetism demanded more than the traditional male role of supporting player to a ballerina. And from the day the Kirov Ballet's rebellious young star, Rudolf Nureyev, made his Western debut in Paris in 1961, the world of ballet was changed forever. Now author Diane Solway examines Nureyev's heady, flamboyant life and career in Nureyev: His Life.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.71(w) x 8.92(h) x 1.70(d)

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In March 1938, Farida Nureyeva packed Lip her belongings and together with her three young daughters, Rosa, eight, Lilya, seven, and Razida, three, boarded the Trans-Siberian Express near her home in Kushnarenkovo, a small Ural village halfway between Leningrad and Siberia. Her husband, Hamet, a political officer in the Red Army, was stationed on Russia's easternmost border, Just outside the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

Farida had only reluctantly agreed to make the six-day journey across Siberia and the Russian Far East. At thirty-three, she was eight and a half months pregnant and worried that she might go into labor oil the train. She would have three small girls to mind and the railway cars were sure to be crowded with soldiers and refugees. There would be little room for her to lie down and rest, and few diversions for tile children. The train made two brief stops a day, but the March winds were so severe they made her ears ache, making it impossible to spend more than a few minutes out of doors. She feared there would be no one to help her and little in the way of medical assistance should anything go awry. This she dreaded most of all.

And yet Farida was anxious to be reunited with her husband and didn't want to delay the trip until after the baby's birth, when travel might prove even more taxing. After her neighbors reassured her that two military doctors and another family from their village would be traveling on the same train, Farida proceeded with the thirty-nine-hundred-mile journey. A small, pretty woman with doleful brown eyes, Farida Nureyeva was not in the least frail or fainthearted. Her black hair, parted severely in the center and wrapped neatlyaround her ears, framed a wide, proud face, its complexion dulled by hardship. In the ten years she and Hamet had been married, their lives had been irrevocably altered by the turbulent social and political currents sweeping the country. For generations, Hamet's family had worked in the fields, a pattern only recently broken by the Revolution, In the new social order, the ambitious Harriet had been able to reinvent himself and lie had gladly exchanged the mantle of poor Tatar peasant for the more promising one of politruk. His advance through the ranks had brought a steady change of postings, which required him to be perpetually on the move. Often, Farida was left alone for weeks on end to look after their small children. But uprooted as their life had been, they had lived among their own people and in familiar surroundings in whichever Tatar village Hamet happened to be sent.

This trip to the Far East, however, marked a departure from the patterns of their past, and as Farida boarded the train, she couldn't dispel her nagging fears, despite all the reassurances she had been given. She had never taken such a long journey before and she was moving tier children from the relatively safe haven of the Ural Mountains to a potentially dangerous port of call. She wondered what kind of life she could make there for her children, especially for the infant she now awaited with anticipation and concern.

As the Trans-Siberian snaked its way across the undulating Urals and into Siberia, past hundreds of identical small towns and gaily painted wooden bungalows, Farida passed the time gazing out at the snowblanketed steppes, the monotony of white broken now and then by ghostly forests of pine and silver birch. Meanwhile, Rosa, Lilya and Ra'zida took delight in this new adventure and passed the time running tip and down the corridors, exploring the train with great excitement, only dimly aware of just how soon their new sibling would arrive.

On March 17, Farida went into labor. She was still nineteen himdred miles from Vladivostok. As promised, tier neighbors sent for the doctors, and clean white sheets were spread about the carriage. Sometime that afternoon, Farida gave birth to a boy. Upon hearing his first cries, his sister Rosa became so enraptured that she neglected to pay attention to the comings and goings of other passengers in the corridor and caught her fingers in a closing door, tier sobs mingling with those of her newborn brother. Following a Muslim custom that children's names should begin with the same letter as that of the first child, Farida named tier son Rudolf. She picked the name for its sonorous rhythms and not in honor of Rudolph Valentino, as has sometimes been presumed.

Carried in his mother's arms, the Nureyevs' only son was at the beginning of a journey that would take him from one end of the country to the other, and nearly halfway back again -some seven thousand miles over the next five years. The upheaval of those first years would leave him with a permanent sense of rootlessness. He would always be a gypsy, never a native. "It seems to me very symbolic and revealing that I should have been born en route, in between two places. It makes me feel that it was my destiny to be cosmopolitan. Ever since I was born, I have had no real sense of 'belonging'; no real country or house to call my own. My existence had none of the usual, normal limitations which make for a feeling of permanence and this has always left me with a strong sensation of having been born stateless."

Beginning with the time and place of his birth, Nureyev's life was fraught with uncertainty Unfortunately neither his birth records nor relatives' recollections provide any conclusive answers, a problem that dogs anyone trying to piece together the details of a life that began in the darkest hours of the Stalinist era. Even Nureyev himself came up short when, late in his life, he tried to divine the precise moment of his birth in order to have his astrological chart done. While the family story has it that he was born in the afternoon, neither Nureyev's sister Razida nor his niece Alfia — both of whom lived with Farida Nureyeva...

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