Review: Vaslav, Arthur Japin

Vaslav, Arthur Japin
While being at the peak of his career the legendary Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinski decides to stop talking and dancing. He will hardly speak and never perform again for the remaining 31 years of his life. What motivates someone to make a decision like this and what does it mean for the people in his surroundings?

Arthur Japin was born in 1956 in Haarlem. After finishing the gymnasium in Haarlem he went to study langauge and literature in Amsterdam but changed to the The Amsterdamse Toneelschool&Kleinkunstacademie a school for dramatic arts where he graduated in 1982. He is currently living in Utrecht with his partner.

I read this book when it was first released. Japin is one of the biggest Dutch authors at the moment and his books get a lot of attention. Though I did not remember much of the details I did remember the impressions of unease and awkwardness the book left me with. When they announced the book would be made in a play I became very curious. So I bought a ticket for the play and planned a reread of the book right before.
The book is told by three people, Peter the personal servant of Vaslav in the house in St. Moritz. Romola, Vaslavs wife and Sergei Pavlovich (Dhiagilev)who was Vaslavs partner during his time at Ballets Russes. Peter is having the most fresh view on Nijjinsky and is not bothered by an artistic background. He sees clearly that something is wrong with Vaslav and worries but is not really in the position to do anything about it plus he admires Vaslavs ideas on freedom and love.
Romola knows something is wrong with her husband but blames Dhiagilev for everything. First forcing Vaslav in a position as his partner and after when Vaslav marries her by throwing him out of the Ballet. She thinks Vaslav is depressed because he cannot show his talent to the world any more. Her obsession with Vaslav is very clear in the book.
Third is Sergei Pavlovich, most of his story is about the love he shared with Vaslav since he picked him up in Russia combined with the developments in Vaslavs career in which me played one of the most important parts.
The three stories together give clear view on who Vaslav is (according to the author because it is still for the most part a work of fiction), who they want him to be and what they want from him.
Still there is no way I connected to Vaslav as a character. He is a part of the story, an important part but I never really got a grip on him. His awkward behaviour, childish, living in a different dimension is clear from all three stories. Still he leaves the biggest impression on my feelings after reading the book.

The play left me with the same feeling. Maarten Heijmans portrayed Vaslav the way I pictured him in my head with all his awkwardness and detached behavior. The balance between the looking to the past and the now was more in favour of the now missing out on some things I really enjoyed in the book. The dialogue was filled with beautiful sentences though. A very impressive play and if you get the chance to see it before it closes (the 25th of May 2014 in DeLaMar, Amsterdam) you should go!

Author: Arthur Japin
Publisher: Arbeiderspers
Pages: 374
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-10: 9029572973
ISBN-13: 9789029572972
Publisher: eBook | Hardcover
4 stars

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3 reacties

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05 May, 2014 delete

Sounds like a weird story. It was probably a really good idea for you to have read the book before watching the play !

06 May, 2014 delete

I always try to read the book before watching/seeing the story in another medium. Sounds like an interesting story! :)

08 May, 2014 delete

Japin! I loved reading "een schitterend gebrek" ("In Lucia's Eyes" in English)