«This is for your new hobby!», my dearly beloved grandmother said, handing me a heavy gift bag. «But not spiders. The other one.» We were in my mother’s and her husband’s little overgrown garden, preparing for a barbecue. My birthday had passed the week before, and my grandmother had brought this present all the way from Kiev. «It’s from your aunt and her family as well as dedushka and me», she confided.
Have you ever had people lug heavy presents over 1600 kilometres just because it was your birthday? My grandmother does it regularly, even when it’s not my birthday. She’s amazing in many, many ways.
The heavy present was of course a book. This book, which is a Russian translation of Diaghilev by the Dutch author Sjeng Scheijen.
The book is a biography of the fabled Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev. In 1909, he called into being the Ballets Russes, the dance company which gave rise, in one way or another, to much of what constitutes ballet today. Stars like Nijinsky, Pavlova, Balanchine and Petipa were involved with the company. Now these are names that even certain individuals not too knowledgeable in history (ahem) know very well.
The book is one of several detailing Diaghilev’s life and work and should be a pleasure to read. You can find reviews here and here if you’re interested. The most important point seems to be that Sjeng Scheijen focuses more on the impresario’s interpersonal relationships rather than the art, seeing how a lot has been written on the subject of the latter already.
The book also has gorgeous illustrations: photographs, concept drawings, portraits and posters from the Ballets Russes. I am very much looking forward to reading it, putting it on my shelf and taking it out periodically to admire the pictures. I’ll share my impressions with you. And since the book was translated into English, you can share your impressions with me if you have already read it.
In short, a lovely present from my family in Kiev, «for my other hobby». But wait…
«This is for your hobby!», my wonderful de facto mother-in-law had said exactly one week before, handing me a gift bag. «But not spiders. The other one.» That gift bag had revealed a bottle of light, refreshing perfume, perfect after a post-dancing shower. Incidentally, it also contained a book, although not a dance-related one. I have inherited certain bibliophile/bibliomane tendencies from my family, which have led to me giving and receiving books as gifts very often.
After all, what is nicer than a beautiful book, especially if it concerns my «other hobby»?