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