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Unexpurgated Edition

edited by Joan Acocella

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-13921-0
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

At last, the deletions made by the great dancer’s wife regarding his relationship with Serge Diaghilev have been restored to this tragic diary. Nijinsky’s is not the usual artist’s diary. It gives no insight into his thinking while he was choreographing his radical ballets, The Rite of Spring and Afternoon of a Faun. That is because during the six weeks when he kept this diary, in early 1919, the dancer who had captivated the world during his years with the Ballets Russes was tipping over into madness (in her excellent introduction, dance critic Acocella concurs with the diagnosis of “confused schizophrenia with mild manic excitement” made by the famed psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler). The tragedy of the diary is in Nijinsky’s evident anxiety that his wife was about to commit him to an insane asylum and his frantic desire to prove himself sane. But in fact, much of the diary is given over to ramblings growing out of his Tolstoyan pacifism and his belief that he was God or at least in direct communication with God. Yet scattered throughout these ravings are sharp comments about his wife, Romola, and various people he has known, much of it colored by his abiding bitterness over his firing from the Ballets Russes by its impresario and Nijinsky’s former lover, Serge Diaghilev (according to Acocella, this was one of a string of misfortunes that culminated in Nijinsky’s madness). There is this, for instance, about Igor Stravinsky, who composed The Rite of Spring: “Igor thinks that I am hostile to his aims. He seeks riches and fame.” But most of his bile is reserved for Diaghilev, claiming that he submitted to Diaghilev’s sexual demands only because the impresario held total power of Nijinsky’s career. The diary also interestingly reinforces Nijinsky’s image of sexual ambiguity, for he claims that throughout his relationship with Diaghilev, he sought out female prostitutes for his own satisfaction. For anyone who has been seduced by Nijinsky’s legend, a sad but indispensable document.