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Simon Morrison writes:
Volumes I, 1907-14, and II, 1915-23, of Prokofiev’s diaries were translated by Anthony Phillips and published in the UK in 2006 and 2008 respectively. The third and final volume, also translated by Phillips, came out at the end of last year. The set – 2735 pages – is produced as stylishly as the Russian edition but with better annotations and a proper index. Phillips’s colossal labour is an indispensable contribution to the history of musical modernism. Prokofiev was intolerant, impetuous and obnoxiously self-centred, but he had an unmatched musical ear, an eye for detail and a keen wit. His lexicon of invective and arcane slang is not easy to translate into English, but Phillips succeeds magnificently. Put-downs range from ‘haemorrhoidal’ to ‘unhorsed’ (meaning ‘at a loss’); Russia is derided as ‘Bolshevizia’; personal belongings are ‘impedimenta’. Prokofiev’s descriptions of his own works pale in comparison to what he says of those by his rivals; his account of the modernist music scene adds to the historical record. He had a close personal relationship with Stravinsky during his pre-Soviet years in Paris, as well as with Poulenc and the composers’ collective known as Les Six. He writes about the experience of touring to places as far-flung as Buffalo and Odessa with the flair of an experienced travel writer: he even notes the bathroom fixtures in his hotel rooms.