European Russia; children of 1812; Moscow! Moscow!; the peasant marriage; in search of the Russian soul; descendants of Genghiz Khan; Russia through the Soviet lens; Russia abroad.
Orlando Figes is the author of "A People's Tragedy", which won the NCR Book Award, the Wolfson History Prize, the Longman/History Today Book of the Year Award and the WH Smith Literary Award.
Orlando Figes is a professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, and former University Lecturer in History at Cambridge. Born in London in 1959, he graduated with a double-starred first in History from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1982. His first book, Peasant Russia, Civil War, was described by one reviewer as 'one of the most important books ever published on the Russian Revolution'. His website can be found at www.orlandofiges.co.uk Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He was born in 1959 and studied History at Cambridge. Before moving to Birkbeck he was a University Lecturer in History and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He is the author of Peasant Russia, Civil War, A People's Tragedy (which in 1997 was the winner of the Wolfson History Prize, the WH Smith Literary Award, the Longman / History Today Book of the Year Award, the NCR Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Natasha's Dance (which was shortlisted for the 2003 Samuel Johnson prize) and The Whisperers (2007).
An award-winning British historian seeks to define Russian culture. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Even if one takes nothing else away from this elegant, tightly focused survey of Russian culture, it's impossible to forget the telling little anecdotes that University of London history professor Figes (A People's Tragedy) relates about Russia's artists, writers, musicians, intellectuals and courtiers as he traces the cultural movements of the last three centuries. He shares Ilya Repin's recollection of how peasants reacted to his friend Leo Tolstoy's fumbling attempts to join them in manual labor ("Never in my life have I seen a clearer expression of irony on a simple peasant's face"), as well as the three sentences Shostakovich shyly exchanged with his idol, Stravinsky, when the latter returned to the Soviet Union after 50 years of exile (" `What do you think of Puccini?' `I can't stand him,' Stravinsky replied. `Oh, and neither can I, neither can I' "). Full of resounding moments like these, Figes's book focuses on the ideas that have preoccupied Russian artists in the modern era: Just what is "Russianness," and does the quality come from its peasants or its nobility, from Europe or from Asia? He examines canonical works of art and literature as well as the lives of their creators: Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, Chagall, Stanislavsky, Eisenstein and many others. Figes also shows how the fine arts have been influenced by the Orthodox liturgy, peasant songs and crafts, and myriad social and economic factors from Russian noblemen's unusual attachments to their peasant nannies to the 19th-century growth of vodka production. The book's thematically organized chapters are devoted to subjects like the cultural influence of Moscow or the legacy of the Mongol invasion, and with each chapter Figes moves toward the 1917 revolution and the Soviet era, deftly integrating strands of political and social history into his narrative. This is a treat for Russophiles and a unique introduction to Russian history. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Scintillating. . .an exceptional history of Russian culture and a joy to read." --"San Francisco Chronicle" "Stunning and ambitious. . .Figes captures nothing less than Russians' complex and protean notions regarding their national identity." --"The Atlantic Monthly" "Staggering. . .A vivid, entertaining, and enlightening account of what it has meant to be culturally a Russian over the last three centuries." --"Los Angeles Times" "[A] masterly work." --"New York Review of Books" "A big, bold, interpretative cultural history." --"Foreign Affairs"