The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky: Unexpurgated Edition

The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky: Unexpurgated Edition

by Vaslav Nijinsky
     
 

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The astonishing, legendary diaries of the great dancer, complete and unexpurgated

In December 1917, Vaslav Nijinsky, the most famous male dancer in the Western world, moved into a Swiss villa with his wife and three-year-old daughter and began to go mad. This diary, which he kept in four notebooks over six weeks, is the only sustained, on-the-spot written account

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Overview

The astonishing, legendary diaries of the great dancer, complete and unexpurgated

In December 1917, Vaslav Nijinsky, the most famous male dancer in the Western world, moved into a Swiss villa with his wife and three-year-old daughter and began to go mad. This diary, which he kept in four notebooks over six weeks, is the only sustained, on-the-spot written account we have by a major artist of the experience of entering psychosis.

Nijinsky's diary was first published in 1936, in a heavily bowdlerized version that omitted almost half of his text. The present edition, translated by Kyril FitzLyon, is the first complete version in English and the first version in any language to include the fourth notebook, which was written at the very edge of madness. It contains Nijinsky's last lucid thoughts—on God, sex, war, and the nature of the universe, as well as on his own broken life. In her Introduction, the noted dance writer Joan Acocella explains the context of the diary and its place in the history of modernism.

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Editorial Reviews

Adam Phillips
Now that the agony and the tedium of 'madness' are evident, now that its waste is recognized as often being in excess of its revelations, it may be just the right time for this first, and excellent, translation of Nijinsky's complete diary. Where previously we had his wife's understandably expurgated edition, here we have Nijinsky with his shames intact, as it were....the Diary is an extraordinary work...the rhythm of its obsessions is integral to its power....Nothing could be at once more belated, or more timely than this remarkable diary. -- New York Observer
Kristin Eliasberg
As a record of a great artist going insane, the diary is unprecedented. Though he is clearly descending into madness, Nijinsky is often lucid and able to sustain narrative flow.... The value of the diary is those glimpses beyond the madness to the meanings, however fleeting, of a troubled genius who was surely one of the greatest choreographers of our century.
Bookforum
William Deresiewicz
...[A] complete and faithful translation of what Nijinsky actually wrote....in displaying the author in all his terrifying peculiarity, [the book] allows us to glimpse in his madness not the apotheosis, but at least the ruins, of his genius....despite his disordered mind, Nijinsky captures the sense of a house going to pieces around him.
The New York Times Book Review
Charles Wright
On the day of [his] final concert, Nijinsky began keeping a diary...published in unexpurgated form for the first time....[T]his may be the only sustained, contemporaneous first-person account of a writer losing his mind ever published....Nijinsky simply lets his rich aberrant mental functions run riot to record raw, horrifying feelings, which is story enough. -- Biography Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
At last, the deletions made by the great dancer's wife regarding his relationship with Serge Diaghilev have been restored to this tragic diary. Nijinsky's is not the usual artist's diary. It gives no insight into his thinking while he was choreographing his radical ballets, "The Rite of Spring" and "Afternoon of a Faun." That is because during the six weeks when he kept this diary, in early 1919, the dancer who had captivated the world during his years with the Ballets Russes was tipping over into madness (in her excellent introduction, dance critic Acocella concurs with the diagnosis of "confused schizophrenia with mild manic excitement" made by the famed psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler). The tragedy of the diary is in Nijinsky's evident anxiety that his wife was about to commit him to an insane asylum and his frantic desire to prove himself sane. But in fact, much of the diary is given over to ramblings growing out of his Tolstoyan pacifism and his belief that he was God or at least in direct communication with God. Yet scattered throughout these ravings are sharp comments about his wife, Romola, and various people he has known, much of it colored by his abiding bitterness over his firing from the Ballets Russes by its impresario and Nijinsky's former lover, Serge Diaghilev (according to Acocella, this was one of a string of misfortunes that culminated in Nijinsky's madness). There is this, for instance, about Igor Stravinsky, who composed "The Rite of Spring": "Igor thinks that I am hostile to his aims. He seeks riches and fame." But most of his bile is reserved for Diaghilev, claiming that he submitted to Diaghilev's sexual demands only because the impresario held total power ofNijinsky's career. The diary also interestingly reinforces Nijinsky's image of sexual ambiguity, for he claims that throughout his relationship with Diaghilev, he sought out female prostitutes for his own satisfaction. For anyone who has been seduced by Nijinsky's legend, a sad but indispensable document.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374526856
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
05/01/2000
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.98(d)

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