- Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (4 Sept. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140297960
- ISBN-13: 978-0140297966
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia Paperback – 4 Sep 2003
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As epic and ambitious as his first book A People's Tragedy, Orlando Figes's Natasha's Dance is a sweeping panorama of Russian culture over the centuries. It takes its title from a scene in War and Peace in which the upper-crust Natasha Rostov, visiting her countrified "Uncle", falls instinctively into the rhythms of a peasant dance. Figes finds in this scene an ideal metaphor for his book's central theme--the perpetual see-sawing between the European cultural ideals of the aristocracy in St Petersburg and an "authentic" Russianess, usually seen as embodied in the peasantry and the country. The great debate in Russian culture has been between those who have seen it as a naturally "Western" society and those who have seen its destiny as lying in the East and its vast hinterland.
Around this supporting central theme, Figes has constructed an imposing edifice. The range of his knowledge and the sureness with which he deploys it are very impressive. Whether writing about the music of Stravinsky and Shostakovich or the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the buildings of St Petersburg or the poetry of Akhmatova, he has something new and original to say. The great cultural achievements of Russia often seem, for those who have only a little knowledge of Russian history, like giant mountains suddenly rising out of featureless terrain. Figes's excellent book gives them a context and fills out many of the details of the surrounding landscape.--Nick Rennison --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"In this excellent book Orlando Figes gives us
the sight, sound and flavour of several Russias, glimpsed from various angles
" -- Literary Review, October 1, 2002 (by Lindsey Hughes)
"One of those books that, at times, makes you wonder how you have so far managed to do without it." -- Independent on Sunday, October 6, 2002 (by Robin Buss)
"This wide-ranging history of Russia is one of the publishing events of the year." -- Sunday Times Culture, September 15, 2002
"Written beautifully with striking wit this superb, flamboyant and masterful tour dhorizon is fun, anecdotal and fascinating, colourful and playful." -- Financial Times, September 22, 2002 (by Simon Sebag Montefiore)
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Top Customer Reviews
One thing that might be viewed as a certain deficiency is the author's bias. He shows occassional tendency to put down widely recognized authors and diminish their credit (Tolstoy, Bunin, Dostoyevsky, Rimsky-Korsakov) and on the other hand, he seems to spend way too much time on two women poets, Akhmatova and Cvetaeva, because he likes them, and their life stories suit his story-telling purposes.
This is all great - if you already know something about the subject, it's very interesting to confront your (or generally accepted) views and experience with a different point of view, that is nonetheless very intelligent and stimulating. But if you are a newcomer, it might give you a slightly distorted view of things. So if you bear in mind that this book is more of a personal confession of passion for and vast knowledge of Russian culture rather than an "academic" overview, you will not be disappointed. Also, the book is a great reference, so it's really worth buying to have it handy.
Natasha's Dance tells you all this and far more, much more than I can recall in one go. The name of the book, which is rather offputtingly esoteric, refers to a scene from War and Peace, which indicates what level of reader it is pitched at.
This book is not a light read. There is so much information, you may find you need to stop to take a thinking break after every page just to take it all in. It is so rich that you may be overwhelmed if you haven't got at least a passing knowledge of Russia.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I can not imagine how I managed without this fantastic book all this time! Its the title which caught my attention at first-Natasha's dance from War and Peace. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
A beautiful history, tremendously well researched; reads like fiction.Published 7 months ago by Sebastian Dwyer
i bought this book to replace one that I had lost.,now Iam reading it for the third time.I have had so much pleasure from reading this book, and I have learned so much about... Read morePublished 10 months ago by pam ridley