Dancer

Dancer

Book rating: 01 Paperback Phoenix

By (author) Colum McCann

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Product description

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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Author information

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.

Customer reviews

By Valerie Brown 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

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)