Reni'A Blum and The Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life

Reni'A Blum and The Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life

by Judith Chazin-Bennahum
     
 

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The biography of a fascinating cultural hero, René 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 Léon Blum, the first socialist prime minister of France, René Blum was a passionate and prominent littérateur. He was the editor of the

Overview

The biography of a fascinating cultural hero, René 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 Léon Blum, the first socialist prime minister of France, René Blum was a passionate and prominent littérateur. He was the editor of the chic literary journal Gil Blas where he met such celebrated figures as Claude Debussy, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, André Gide, and Paul Valéry. 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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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."—Lynn Garafola, Professor of Dance, Barnard College

"Chazin-Bennahum has unearthed the truth about René Blum's extraordinary vision and artistic contributions. By illuminating the life of an important dance figure via an array of previously unknown primary sources, she also provides a first-rate model for dance biographies yet to come."—Elizabeth Aldrich, Dance Historian

"Balletomanes, Francophiles, and students of European cultural history will enjoy this scholarly and meticulously researched work." — Library Journal

"Well researched and fascinating account of the wars of the Ballet Russes and World War II that destroyed so many great artists." — ART TIMES

"We owe her a debt for bringing Blum back into historical view." — New York Times Book Review

"A splendid new biography...For dance aficionados the book is a treasure house of information about life inside a ballet company from both artistic and financial points of view...This book is a wonder." — Washington Independent Review of Books

"Judith Chazin-Bennahum, the author, who researched heretofore uninvestigated archives, has done a heroic job in bringing to a larger public the life and work of René Blum, who was perhaps the quintessential embodiment of twentieth century European culture up until World War I and a major force in dance after 1925." — Art Times

"The book is a major achievement in dance history. But Chazin-Bennahum's finest work is her last chapter, a harrowing account of Blum's final days. His heroism and selflessness in an appalling situation will bring tears to your eyes." — Dance Magazine

"This book is a long-needed account of the theater critic, art critic, ballet impresario, cinephile, army interpreter, showman, business director, talent scout and shill - and victim of the Nazis." — San Francisco Chronicle, Best Books of 2011

"This biography is a must-read for all balletomanes, especially those who are interested in the history of the Ballets Russes and its impact on the development of modern dance...Chazin-Bennahum has brought René Blum and his work back into view, recovering the narrative of an exceptional life tragically cut short by the Nazis' barbarism." — Gay &Lesbian Review

"Judith Chazin-Bennahum, in searching for [Blum's] lost life, has done a service - not just culturally, but morally." —DCA News

Library Journal
Unlike his French prime minister brother, Léon, René Blum (1878–1941) spent his life in a cultural rather than political milieu. As editor of the literary journal Gil Blas, he was acquainted with the likes of Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Claude Debussy, Paul Valéry, and Marcel Proust. A man of arts as well as letters, Blum was a theatrical manager whose forte was producing and promoting dance. Acording to Chazin-Bennahum (Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theatre & Dance, Univ. of New Mexico), "Blum is revered for having saved the Ballets Russes from probable extinction after the death of Diaghilev in 1929." In 1932, in partnership with Colonel W. de Basil, Blum resurrected Diaghilev's Ballets Russes as the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, which existed until 1963. To compile this biography, Chazin-Bennahum mined a wealth of previously untapped primary sources and unearthed numerous photographs from several archival collections. Blum's own autobiography has been lost since he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1941. VERDICT Balletomanes, Francophiles, and students of European cultural history will enjoy this scholarly and meticulously researched work.—Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L.
Jennifer Homans
Blum now has a biographer. She is Judith Chazin-Bennahum, a historian of dance…Her research is worthy, and we owe her a debt for bringing Blum back into historical view.
—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195399332
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/15/2011
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
9.32(w) x 6.42(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Judith Chazin-Bennahum, former ballet dancer, is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theatre and Dance at the University of New Mexico.

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