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Description - Dancer by Colum McCann

Stunning, bestselling novel based on the real life of Rudolf Nureyev from an acclaimed author. This novel opens on a battlefield: trudging back from the front through a ravaged and icy wasteland, their horses dying around them, their own hunger rendering them almost savage, the Russian soldiers are exhausted as they reach the city of Ufa, desperate for food and shelter. They find both, and then music and dance. And there, spinning unafraid among them, dancing for the soldiers and anyone else who'll watch him, is one small pale boy, Rudolf. This is Colum McCann's dancer: Rudolf, a prodigy at six years old, who became the greatest dancer of the century, who redefined dance, rewrote his own life, and died of AIDS before anyone knew he had it. This is an extraordinary life transformed into extraordinary fiction by one of the most acclaimed writers of his generation. One kind of masculine grace is perfectly matched to another in Colum McCann's beautiful and daring new novel.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780753817049
ISBN-10: 0753817047
Format: Paperback
(196mm x 133mm x 23mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Publish Date: 6-Oct-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Dancer by Colum McCann

UK Kirkus Review » Quoting from William Maxwell, McCann tells the reader that it is the storyteller's work to rearrange the conflicting emotions of a life. 'In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.' Fiction or biography, it doesn't matter; this dazzling novel based on the life of Rudolf Nureyev has an integrity and truth that many biographies fail to achieve. By the end of the book a complete picture of a life has been drawn, from homeland and childhood to the art of music and dance. Friends and family - even servants - are given a voice to tell their own story, creating fictions within fiction. McCann knows that to understand Nureyev's loneliness and guilt it is necessary to devote time to the child's longing to have his father home from the war, so the first section gives a realistic picture of the Russian soldiers' struggle to defend the Soviet Union from 1941 until their final victory. It is atmospheric writing and ends with the trains carrying the lice-ridden wounded towards the city of Ufa where a six-year-old Tatar boy, Nureyev, watched daily to see if his father would be among the returning men. After his defection the dancer was forbidden to return to the Soviet Union and it was not until his mother was dying that he was granted 48 hours to see her and his sister. His father, who had never seen him dance, had died years before. It is a rich story and the telling is equally rich: words tumble out in lists and images, sentences begin over and over again with the same word as though McCann needs every nuance to say what he wants. There are descriptions of the craft of making ballet shoes, accounts of Nureyev's extravagance, his love of music, his obsession with perfection, his sexual adventures, his love on stage for Margot Fonteyn. Sometimes the telling is in note form, sometimes in dialogue and sometimes there are 20 or more pages of dense prose. A tour de force. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A fictionalized biography of Rudolf Nureyev (1938-93), chronicled in an understated, intimate narrative from the celebrated dancer's childhood to the height (and excesses) of his fame. The town of Ufa, in the former Soviet region of Bashkir, was about as far off the beaten track as you could get-especially under Stalin, when it was a secret industrial city not even allowed to appear on the map. Yet Ufa was to provide the first audience for one of the greatest stars in ballet history, who made his world premiere as a six-year-old dancing in the wards of WWII military hospitals. Talented from the start but no prodigy, Nureyev trained long and hard to become a dancer-first in Ufa (very much against the wishes of his father, a Party member who dreamed of having an engineer for a son), and later in Leningrad, where he became a member of the famed Kirov Ballet. When success arrived, it arrived quickly, and by the late 1950s Nureyev was doing command performances for Krushchev and the Central Committee. In 1961 he defected to the West, in Paris, transforming himself into cause celebre-vilified at home (his father publicly denounced him) and idolized abroad. McCann (Everything in This Country Must, 2000, etc.) tells the story from different perspectives, in chapters narrated alternately by Anna Vasileva (Nureyev's first ballet teacher), Victor Parecci (the gay Venezualian prostitute who became his lover in New York), Yulia Sergeevna (his landlady in Leningrad), and Nureyev himself. Like many success stories, Nureyev's presented a depressing spectacle of vanity and decadence toward the end, and the later chapters (largely chronicles of parties, shopping sprees, hangovers, and petty spites) convey this vividly. The ending, a description of Nureyev's 1987 return to visit his family in Ufa, is appropriate and moving. Balletomanes will love it, but the focus may seem obsessive to anyone who doesn't know who Margot Fonteyn is. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Colum McCann

Colum McCann was born in Dublin in 1965. His fiction has won numerous international awards including the Rooney Prize, the Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Award, a Pushcart Prize, and Esquire magazine's Writer of the Year award in 2003. In 2005 he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film. He was recently inducted into the Hennessy Hall of Fame in Dublin. His work has been published in twenty-six languages. He has travelled widely and is based in New York, where he lives with his wife and children.

Books By Colum McCann

Kingdom of Olives and Ash by Colum McCann
Paperback, June 2017
Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann
Hardback, May 2017
Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
Paperback, September 2016
Moonfire. The Epic Journey of Apollo 11 by Colum McCann
Hardback, July 2015