The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture

Metropolitan: Holt. Oct. 2019. 608p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781627792141. $37.50; ebk. ISBN 9781627792158. HIST
In this lively study, Figes (history, Birkbeck Univ. of London; A People’s Tragedy) untangles the fraught relationships among three subjects: operatic diva Pauline Viardot, her husband, Louis, and Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev. (Was Pauline’s daughter the product of a liaison with Turgenev?) But he does more than that: using their lives to show how, in the middle of the 19th century, an understanding of art as European, not solely national, slowly emerged. In the process, Figes discusses the impact of the railroad and telegraph on communications and movement, how changes in finance led to transformations in repertoire in opera companies, and the fight of writers and composers to secure international copyright protection. Turgenev was the first Russian author widely read in the West, in part because of his energetic involvement in securing translations of his writings before pirated editions appeared. The cast of characters shows how Turgenev knew and associated with figures such as Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Eugène Delacroix, and more.
VERDICT Vividly written and meticulously detailed, this book will please lovers of the history of literature and music, at the very least
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