The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky
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About this title:
In December 1917, Vaslav Nijinsky, the most famous male dancer in the Western world, moved into a Swiss villa with his wife and three-year-old daughter and began to go mad. This diary, which he kept in four notebooks over six weeks, is the only sustained, on-the-spot written account we have by a major artist of the experience of entering psychosis.
Nijinsky's diary was first published in 1936, in a heavily bowdlerized version that omitted almost half of his text. The present edition, translated by Kyril FitzLyon, is the first complete version in English and the first version in any language to include the fourth notebook, which was written at the very edge of madness. It contains Nijinsky's last lucid thoughts--on God, sex, war, and the nature of the universe, as well as on his own broken life. In her Introduction, the noted dance writer Joan Acocella explains the context of the diary and its place in the history of modernism.
Review: Vaslav Nijinsky spent the final six weeks before his permanent consignment to an insane asylum as something a madman in the attic. With his family--wife, young daughters and occasionally, mother-in-law--and household staff downstairs, the legendary dancer retreated to his room in a remote Swiss villa to tangle with his burgeoning psychosis. Fearful that his wife would (as she ultimately did) commit him, and highly suspicious of the physician-cum-amateur psychiatrist who daily came by to examine him, Nijinsky perceived the diary as the only safe haven for the rambling thoughts that were overtaking him. Throughout, the anxiety and anguish are palpable, as Nijinsky writes about his disillusionment with his mentor and lover, Ballets Russes director Serge Diaghilev; his alienation from and distrust of his closest family members; and his fear of insanity and its consequential confinement. His writing becomes more obscure as the weeks progress and he examines his relationship to God, writing "I am God" at one point, and later: "God said to me, 'Go home and tell your wife that you are mad.'" As his schizophrenia evolves, the pace and style of Nijinsky's prose changes radically--toward the end he writes in abstract verse--but he remains, with a dancer's sensibility, attuned to the cadences of his environment. The noises of the household, the ringing of the phone, footsteps down the hall, smatterings of conversations overheard are all registered as a sort of accompaniment to his dance with madness and function perhaps as a final tether to reality.
Nijinsky's wife stumbled upon the diary in a locked trunk some years after her husband disappeared into the abyss of madness and soon released it for publication to feed public interest in her famous mate--but not before she sanitized the manuscript to such a degree (removing references to his homosexuality, overblown ego, bizarre paranoia, and various obsessions with bodily functions and sex acts) that its essence was obscured. Now 80 years after it was written, 20 years after its renegade editor died, and six years after the copyright that Nijinsky's daughters held expired, the unexpurgated version of the diaries faithfully restores the fascinating record of a great artist's struggle for his life.
Title: The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky
Publisher: Texas Bookman
Book Condition: Good
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