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Dancer

Dancer

Book rating: 01 Paperback Phoenix

By (author) Colum McCann

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Product description

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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Author information

Colum McCann was born in 1965. He has won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and been nominated for both the IRISH TIMES Fiction Prize and the Impac Prize. He has travelled widely and is currently based in New York with his wife and two young children.

Customer reviews

By Sally Hovis 09 Mar 2014 1

Why would anyone waste time writing a 'novel' about a person they obviously despised? This is a sad and horrible book, focusing on all the worst aspects of Nureyev's character. He was no angel, but he didn't deserve this kind of vilification. To call it 'fiction' and then introduce so many 'real' people is a nonsense. There were few redeeming features in this book, and I suspect it will upset many fans of Nureyev around the world. Award winning? Only for one of the most spiteful books I have ever read.

Review quote

'The theme of towering celebrity and its attendant vacuity is very well done.' -- Chris Power THE TIMES 'DANCER overflows with vibrant detail and evocative description...McCann's books has a tremendous amount of life and energy.' THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY McCann has achieved a tour de force in his re-imagined life of Rudolf Nureyev... McCann spins a verbal rhapsody out of Nureyev's passions and longings, by turns soulful, flamboyant, in your face. -- Brian Hennigan THE HERALD 'Whether describing the Russian stepppe or New York's bathhouses, McCann's versatility is breathtaking.' -- Elena Seymenliyska THE GUARDIAN McCann's fictionalised biography of ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev met with wide critical acclaim on its January publication and its availability in paperback will open up this remarkable story to a new audience' HEAT 'a mesmerising novel' THE OBSERVER McCann's remarkable novel... McCann's prose - nimble, lyrical and wispy - does full justice to the tragic story of a dancer who was the glory of his generation THE SUNDAY TIMES 'it's a strikingly original one (book), and as apparently effortless as one of Fonteyn's pirouettes or Nureyev's leaps into space. -- Arminta Wallace THE IRISH TIMES a truly extraordinary novel FAST FORWARD this is a brilliant portrait of an artist who could soar heavenwards on clay feet. SUNDAY INDEPENDENT

Editorial reviews

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)