Dancer is the erotically charged story of the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev as told through the cast of those who knew him: there is Anna Vasileva, Rudi's first ballet teacher, who rescues her protege from the stunted life of his provincial town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; and Victor, the Venezuelan street hustler, who reveals the lurid underside of the gay celebrity set.
Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the horrors of the Second World War to the wild abandon of New York in the 80s, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous: doormen and shoemakers, nurses and translators, Margot Fonteyn, Eric Bruhn and John Lennon. And at the heart of the spectacle stands the artist himself, willful, lustful, and driven by a never-to-be-met need for perfection.
©2003 Colum McCann (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
This is fiction, but based on the true life events of the famed Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993). Through fiction the author attempts to show readers not only the external facts of Nureyev’s life but also how he perceived his own life. We are not so much told his inner thoughts, motivations and feelings, but we watch what he does and follow the crazed, hyped celebrity life and the frenzied gay-scene that lead to his death by AIDS. He defected Russia in 1961. We see how this impacted his own life and the lives of those left behind. In this book we are shown, not told. What is shown to us is NOT pleasant. I am sure you know of his promiscuous behavior. There is sex and drugs aplenty. This is not a comforting read, no fairy tale. If that is what you want, then look elsewhere. We see Rudi’ s life through the eyes of both those closest to him and those who only brushed shoulders with him, through famed entities such as Jacqueline Onassis, Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Erik Buhn, Margot Fonteyn and through fictional characters too.
There is no author’s note stating explicitly what is fiction and what is fact, but I am convinced that Colum McCann has mirrored Nureyev’s world accurately. I did shore up the facts by reading Wikipedia. I learned much through the fictional characters. They gave depth to the story; some of them I grew to love (Odil and Tom and Anna, to name but three.) Having read this book, I feel I have lived next to Nureyev through his childhood, all the way to his death, ending with a final auction of his possessions. Each episode had a message, none were superfluous. I found neither the sex nor his final illness too explicit; I felt the electricity in the air, the dizzying pace, his fight for perfection in his dance and the sensuality of ballet. Don’t expect the life of a true artist to be anything but violent.
The audiobook has five different narrators, named below. In one chapter the reader hops form one character to another, without warning, but I was never confused. The audiobook’s narrators did not correspond to one specific character. You could not assume that if you heard one voice you knew which character was speaking sine there were many more characters than the five audiobook narrators. The only narrator I was not happy with was Jessica Almasy. Her voice was too sweet, too childish! All the others were great, and Suzanne Toren was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c!!! Is she my favorite narrator? There is a brutal chapter filled with sex and drugs, read by one of the male narrators. That too, with its staccato pulse, perfectly created the world of Nureyev at that time. I believe that listening to the audiobook further enhances the reading experience. The tempo, the dialects, the intonations create an atmosphere that carries the reader beyond the written words.
I feel I know now what moved, motivated and pushed Rudolph Nureyev. I feel I understand him. I pity him and I admire him. Both. When I look at his life I look at it with disgust and admiration. I think the author has done a tremendous job. The way Colum McCann has mixed fact with fiction is really amazing. Five stars.
Addicted to books in all forms.
I love listening to McCann's books. His words are a visual delight and listening to them is an absolute treat. The book is not light but it is wonderful. If you want to sit and listen to something that will transport you to another world this book is for you. The narrators were fantastic and I loved how they masterfully wove together the different characters. McCann does not hold his punches when it comes to his characters but the end result felt like I was able to peek into a life and how it is seen not just by the person living it, but by those around them as well.
This book left me with a haunting woven with shades of depression for days. He was about 10 years before my time, his fame was fading as Baryshnikov was peaking. So, I was happy to find some film of his dancing on u-tube. Amazing dancer but depressing life (as seen through this book). The narration was great but the story was difficult to listen to.
One of the best. Readers are excellent and writing is impeccable.
Let the Great World Spin, also by Colum McCann. Different kind of story but told in a similar way. The characters intersect and intertwine, each with his or her own story.
It would have to be Rudi, the center of everyone's attention. Complex, callous, insecure, he had a charisma that drew people to him even as his cruelty pushed them away.
This is one of the most unique books I have ever read. A fictional biography of Rudolph Nureyev, it is never told from his perspective and gave you no idea how the man perceived himself. Instead we get snapshots of a life told from several perspectives, often contradictory. One was never certain which observers were real and which were not. Nor could you tell if the views presented actually represented the person credit with them. I had to assume that there was a basis of truth in the narrative. I knew little about the man except what I read in brief newspaper articles throughout his career. So everything included in the book could have been untrue and I would never know. Yet there was an element of factuality to it. To me, even if the author didn't capture the reality of the man, he captured the essence. Something many fictional biographies fail to do.
I am not a fan of multiple narrators but they were very helpful here. Without them it would have been difficult to keep track of which of the observers visions were being shared at any given time.
This was not an easy book to read. In fact, because of how it was written it was easy to pick up and put down. I read a couple of other books at the same time. But that does not mean it had no affect on me. I find myself still thinking about it weeks later. The vision of the Soviet Union during its height were sobering and thought provoking. The glorious madness of the 1970s and 1980s, still came across as glorious even though we now know what happened to so many people at the center of the madness.
I am always fascinated by people with a single minded intensity to excel at one thing in their life and completely ignore the rest. The intensity of their every moment is amazing to observe - safely - and from a distance. This book allowed me the chance to do that.
I really, really found the constant changing of readers annoying and disconcerting.
Would not recommend. I made it half way through before giving up and most of that on will power alone.
The book itself is somewhat disingenuous in that I thought it was a fictionalized biography of an interesting historical character. Turns out to have little of him in it and a lot (LOT) of drivel about his family, friends, the state of Russia that he grew up in - he is a peripheral character in most of it.
Why did Nureyev did things, what motivated him , how did he trained, what make him struggle? I don't know ...
There are multiple narrators, everyone is fine , but one woman who has a childish voice that gets on my nerves, make me want to stop listening,
The subject is interesting but it is just a narration
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