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Nureyev Hardcover – 9 Nov 1998

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (9 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297815601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297815600
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,120,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Mikhail Baryshnikov once said of Rudolf Nureyev that "he had the charisma and the simplicity of a man of the earth and the untouchable arrogance of the gods." In Diane Solway's new biography, charisma and arrogance definitely win out over grassroots simplicity. Her Rudi is a dance genius whose sexual magnetism continued to attract men and women long after his physical prime, who abandoned his duties as director of the Paris Opéra to tour the US in The King and I (for the money) well after everyone else agreed he should have retired from the stage. You get the feeling that this was not an easy genius to be around.

Diane Solway draws on interviews with more than 200 of Nureyev's colleagues and friends to produce a massive, painstaking account of his life. The open thoroughness of this book contrasts tellingly with Nureyev's own life: when he last appeared in public, haunted and dying, at the Palais Garnier in 1992, his minders made sure that he saw only the reviews that didn't mention AIDS. Now Solway talks about his defection, politics, sexuality and final illness with a frankness that would have horrified her subject, but which makes fascinating reading for the rest of us. --Alan Stewart

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Dec 2000
Format: Hardcover
Solway's comprehensive, compassionate, brilliant biography eschews all sensationalism and instead focuses on the life of this remarkable man. Unlike other tawdry biographies which prefer to focus on sex and scandal Solway never steers completely clear of these issues but instead attributes them to the complex mercurial Nureyev. Her respect and admiration for Nureyev is never in doubt nor is the purpose of her biography to leave a lasting worthy tribute and testament to Nureyev. Moreover the book is written in one of the most compelling styles I have ever read in a biography you literally can't put it down. More than highly recommended - Utterly brilliant
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 April 2002
Format: Hardcover
The book paints Nureijev as a complex man. At times generous, warm and brilliant, at other times confused and arrogant. It is very well researched but most of all very well written. A compelling read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Gripping, fascinating story of the man who changed ballet. 3 Aug 1999
By Theodore G. Mihran - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Diane Solway has researched and written an altogether fascinating biography of Rudolf Nureyev, the dancer who changed classical ballet in the 20th century. He was born to a impoverished family in Russia and untimately died on his private island purchased with the millions he made during his dance career--a true-life rags-to-riches story. But it is so much more...
What a career Nureyev had! As a child he danced to provide an escape from the poverty of his youth. Almost forcing his way into Russian ballet schools, he astonished even his detractors by his grace and vitality. Solway recreates the scene of his defection from Russia in gripping detail. From that moment on, Russia's loss--which they tried hard to ignore, not even allowing Nureyev to see his mother until she was on her deathbed--became the West's priceless gain.
In the West this amazing young man turned into a human dynamo, insisting that contracts be written to allow him to dance every night rather than the customary once or twice a month. Solway follows his transatlantic crossings in dizzying detail as he dances one night in New York, the next night in Paris, and the following night at a festival in mid-Europe. He extended his career far beyond the usual span for a male dancer, eventually forming his own companies so that he could continue to perform. He insisted on learning the stylized awkward steps for modern ballet, and his name filled many houses for benefit performances with modern dance groups. He staged and choreographed many classical ballets, acted in motion pictures, and acted the part of the king in "The King and I" on stage. In his declining years, he learned conducting techinques, and led several European orchestras in concert programs.
My son gave me this book for my birthday, and included with it the video "Fonteyn and Nureyev." What an inspired gift! Words can go only so far in describing dance--even the words of the dance critics whom Solway generously quotes. Nureyev's partnership with Fonteyn is the stuff of legends! This unlikely pair--she supposedly near the end of her careet and he just starting his--packed houses and evoked hour-long curtain calls with their emotion-packed virtuoso performances so clearly evident in the video and convincingly described by Solway.
In this day and age we are fascinated by the details of the sex lives of celebrities. Here, too, Solway does not dissappoint, although almost everything she quotes is not from Nureyev's mouth but from companions who may perhaps put their own personal agendas ahead of the literal truth. Nureyev became a icon for the gay community, and some were angry that he did not use his death from AIDS as a beacon for their cause.
Whatever his motivation, here is the gripping life story of a man who was driven to accomplish more in his half-century of frenzied life than any of us could possibly imagine. I am immensely grateful for Nureyev's richly creative life and, as well, for Diane Solways carefully detailed account of it.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
In fairness, a moderate success....... 7 July 2000
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
With all the good reviews this work is receiving here, I feel that I must point out some of its short-comings. While the information in the book is exhaustive (sometimes to the point of seeming pretentious, as when Solway spends a footnote to provide the married name of an informant after having used her maiden name on the same page--why not just use the established convention of writing first, maiden, and last names?), the obvious research seems often tenuous. Solway's sources are frequently not identified; she writes numerous quotations without noting speakers' or informants' names. Are they Nureyev's words? Did one of his friends or family members say them? Did Solway invent them? How is one to know? How is one to credit the accuracy of a statement at all without the author's establishing of the source's credibility?
There is, of course, a great deal of credited information here, probably most that is not related to the dancer's sexual exploits already in print elsewhere. There is much that I did not know about the "hidden years" in Russia and near the end of the dancer's life. If the information is accurate, these bits are a valuable addition to the permanent body of knowledge about Nureyev (the reason for my 3 star rating).
However, I found the tone of the book uncomfortable. While it is presented as a serious biography, it seemed more akin to a (very weighty) gossip column to me. One other Amazon reviewer noted the presence of lots of stories about Nureyev's lovers (about 2 1/2 pages of speculation on whether Dame Margot Fonteyn was one of them--no definite conclusion). There are also the requisite _enfant terrible_ stories. But mostly missing are the stories of Nureyev's sweetness and generosity. I remember hearing one of his female colleagues say that, if you wanted him to dance for free at a gala you were planning, "all you have to do is cry a little" and he would do anything you wanted. I remember witnessing his evident devastated humility when he accidentally overbalanced a young Royal Ballet ballerina and nearly dropped her from a "bum lift" in a performance of _Fille mal Gardee_. This man could hardly have been the one described by Solway.
Solway does give attention to Nureyev's enormous drive, courage, and indomitability. In that, she is fair to him and to his legend. However, despite the length of the book, there is much missing from it, in my opinion.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
work of psychologist 20 Feb 2007
By Gantuya. B - Published on
Format: Paperback
The book gives impression of reading a work of psychologist. From the beginning to the end of the book, Diana could perfectly describe Nureyev's complex personality: disadvantaged childhood in Russia and aspiration for exposing a new world, warm Tatar blood and rudeness, egoism and ambition, brilliant talent and hard work, subtle sensibility and perfectionism, amazing beauty and extreme sexuality, the factors which contributed him becoming a great dancer of the century. Metaphors she used are funny and sharp as well. Finally, book gives very good information about the history of ballet, the culture that formed the background of the ballet etc.

Thanks Diane for this great job and thanks for giving a pleasure to the fans of Nureyev.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
the most detailed account of Nureyev's life 3 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Compared to all the previous books about Rudolf Nureyev, Diane Solaway's "Nureyev: His Life" stands out as the most detailed, most researched and most complete account of the ballet dancer's life. Those who are interested in Russian culture, Tatar history, ballet, lives of gay celebrities, lifestyles of the rich and famous, etc. will find this book totally fascinating.
Tour de force 13 Jan 2010
By L. Carol - Published on
Format: Paperback
Diane Solway's biography on Nureyev is a tour de force that sets out to accomplish what Virginia Woolf aptly christened to be the hallmark of a good biographer: "Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders".

Meticulously researched and righting many misconceptions and misleading reports (including Nureyev's very own autobiography which veered towards convenience with the truth, not unlike the genre of autobiographies), Solway's book avoided the usual pitfalls pervading biographies written on famous but controversial personalities.

Solway meritoriously stayed on neutral ground in her account of Nureyev's life and many loves, a far cry from biographers who tackled their favorite subject matters with a tad too much schmaltz and partiality. Solway's biography was devoid of sensationalism, not an easy feat considering Nureyev's history marred by self-interest, debauchery and promiscuity.

To Solway's credit, Nureyev's story was a matter-of-fact chronology penned in an appreciably elegant prose. The book chronicled the Russian danseur's story in such a way that allows readers to luxuriate in the intricate plots and subplots of Nureyev's affairs, rendering us the voyeuristic satisfaction of living life vicariously through one of the most influential dance performers of our times. The gastronomy of supplemental knowledge presenting ballet as an art form and entertainment; summaries of visionary dance choreographers that made and continue to make classical ballet/modern dance tick; exposure of the who's who in the dance world plus the plethora of scores that brought ballet performances to life. Supporting the assemblage of all that was written were diligently selected photographs culminating in a pheonomenal biography on Nureyev. In summary, Nureyev: His Life's is an evenhanded biography on the golden boy who took the world by storm for over two decades and a faithful narrative of the flawed private being underneath the veil of success and glamour.

A must-read for anyone in search of an unbiased chronicle to Nureyev's life story and his contributions. 5 stars.
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