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Natasha's Dance : A Cultural History of Russia
by Orlando Figes


Overview - Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself--its character, spiritual essence, and destiny.  Read more...

 
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More About Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes
 
 
 
Overview
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg and culminating with the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself--its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. Skillfully interweaving the great works--by Dostoevsky, Stravinsky, and Chagall--with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, Figes reveals the spirit of "Russianness" as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory--and more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.
Orlando Figes is the author of "A People's Tragedy," recipient of the Wolfson Prize for History and the "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize, among others. A regular contributor to "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," and "The New York Review of Books," he is a professor of history at the University of London. He lives in Cambridge, England.
A "New York Times" Notable Book
Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize
Orlando Figes's "A People's Tragedy," Eric Hobsbawm wrote, did "more to help us understand the Russian Revolution than any other book I know." Now, in "Natasha's Dance," he does the same for Russian culture, summoning the myriad elements that formed a nation and held it together.
Beginning in the eighteenth century with the building of St. Petersburg--a "window on the West"--and culminating with the challenges posed to Russian identity by the Soviet regime, Figes examines how writers, artists, and musicians grappled with the idea of Russia itself: its character, spiritual essence, and destiny. What did it mean to be Russian--an illiterate serf or an imperial courtier? Figes interweaves the great works, by Dostoevsky and Chekhov, Stravinsky and Chagall, with folk embroidery, peasant songs, religious icons, and all the customs of daily life, from food and drink to bathing habits to beliefs about the spirit world. His characters range high and low: Tolstoy, who left his deathbed to search for the Kingdom of God; the serf girl Praskovya, who became the Russian opera's first superstar and shocked society by becoming her owner's wife; Stravinsky, who returned to Russia after fifty years in the West and discovered that the homeland he had left had never left his heart.
Like the European-schooled countess Natasha performing an impromptu folk dance in "War and Peace," the spirit of "Russianess" is revealed by Figes as rich and uplifting, complex and contradictory--a powerful force that unified a vast, riven country and proved more lasting than any Russian ruler or state.
"Absolutely brimming with ideas, full of unforgettable stories and characters, "Natasha's Dance" tells a most remarkable story: How a backward country, obsessed with its backwardness, managed in a single century to produce the most passionate, innovative, searching art and literature of any Western society, in the process transforming Western culture as a whole. In the telling, Orlando Figes displays his gift for narrative power, his love of telling detail, and his great compassion for the lunatics and geniuses who fill his pages. Extraordinary."--Michael Ignatieff
"A sweeping cultural survey of Russia over the past three centuries--consistently rich and thought provoking."--"The Economist "
"Absolutely brimming with ideas, full of unforgettable stories and characters, "Natasha's Dance" tells a most remarkable story: How a backward country, obsessed with its backwardness, managed in a single century to produce the most passionate, innovative, searching art and literature of any Western society, in the process transforming Western culture as a whole. In the telling, Orlando Figes displays his gift for narrative power, his love of telling detail, and his great compassion for the lunatics and geniuses who fill his pages. Extraordinary."--Michael Ignatieff
"Stunning and ambitious . . . Its thematic chapters examine such subjects as art, customs, folklore, religion, cuisine, education, and--most important--the works of novelists, poets, composers, historians, philosophers, and choreographers. Figes captures nothing less than Russians' complex and protean notions regarding their national identity, and their tortured and not infrequently violent efforts to define and determine it."--"The Atlantic Monthly"
"Figes' new work goes far more deeply and profoundly into that aggregation of feelings, attitudes, and hopes than any political or social approach could. A revealing and stimulating effort."--Robert Conquest, author of "The Harvest of Sorrow" and "The Great Terror"
"A most welcome sequel to Figes's much-praised history of the Russian Revolution . . . Figes succeeds in describing the extraordinary scope and power of Russian culture--and in outlining its great themes and issues--in a way that gives the reader a far better understanding of Russia than any history focusing solely on the progress of autocrats, wars and conquests . . . One welcome feature is that it draws much of its material directly from original Russian sources, giving a firsthand taste of the richness and variety of Russian art that scholarly works often exclude . . . "Natasha's Dance" covers enormous ground, ranging across the impact of the Mongol occupation, the influence of Russian Orthodoxy, the ravages of Stalinism and its attempt to harness art to its ideological agenda through the doctrine of Socialist Realism and the Russians in exile."--Serge Schmemann, "The New York Times Book Review"
"A joyous work, clearly inspired by admiration and affection for the diverse figures who, for all their contradictions and self-deluding myths, helped create one of the world's most vibrant cultures."--"The New Leader "
"Sharp and original . . . beautifully wrought . . . an ambitious cultural synthesis."--"The Boston Globe"
"Staggering . . . A vivid, entertaining, and enlightening account of what it has meant to be culturally a Russian over the last three cen

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780312421953
  • ISBN-10: 0312421958
  • Publisher: Picador USA
  • Publish Date: October 2003
  • Page Count: 768


Related Categories

Books > History > Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Books > History > World - General

 
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