Rudolf Nureyev: The Life

James Davidsonwrites:

It took Julie Kavanagh a decade to produce her biography of Nureyev. She had the full co-operation of the Nureyev Foundations, and an awful lot of his friends, former friends and acquaintances spoke to her about him with remarkable candour, some of them for the first time. It is hard to imagine a fuller documentation of one man’s life; in that respect Kavanagh’s is an exemplary modern biography, an ‘official’ biography that is also a tell-all biography, of great significance as a prism through which to view the social, sexual, cultural and political history of the second half of the 20th century, as well as being highly entertaining. Everywhere he went this most famous and recognisable of celebrities was followed by what he called the ‘glare’ of eyeballs. We get a privileged view of the great man lying face down on a rug waiting to be serviced by an instant pick-up who hadn’t had time to remove his shoes; shafting a ‘sylvan youth’ in a supposedly dark room; and, shortly after his defection, stripping off for Richard Avedon and producing a spontaneous erection, ‘after Nijinsky’ as it were.

(LRB 29 November 2007)

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