Authors: Monique Raphel High
Monique Raphel High
his edition published
Post Office Box 57914
Los Angeles, California 91413
Copyright Â© 1981, 2016 Monique Raphel High
his is a work of fiction
. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author's imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Encore/Monique Raphel High 2nd. Edition
Join our newsletter to be the first to know about our new releases!
romantic sagaâ¦a strong blend of passion, tragedy and art in a huge, colorful novel.”
ver 700 pages
of extravagantly emotive grands jetÃ©s, in which three passionate Russiansâan exquisite prima assoluta, an artist, and a brilliant aristocratic balletomaneâsob and soar through the tumultous, Diaghilev-dominated days of the modern Russian ballet (circa 1905-1927).”
of passion and tragedy set against the world of dance in the opulen Russia of Nichala and Alexandra.”
-Magainze & Bookseller
“Dancers were allowed to give two or even more encores; there were no restrictions. But when the Tsar and Tsarina were present, if the audience demanded a third encore, we had to turn to the Imperial Box and wait for a signal from the Emperor and Empressâ¦. When she nodded her consent, I curtsied low and reembarked on my coda to a veritable storm of applause.”
MATILDA KCHESSINSKAYA, Dancing in Petersburg
or my friend
Ellen Yamasaki Williams, who encouraged me to write this book and can still quote from it verbatim. And for Robb, whose book this was from the beginning. And for all the ballet lovers of the world . . .
“If two lives join, there is oft a scar.
They are one and one, with a shadowy third; One near one is too far.”
Robert Browning, By the Fireside, xlvi
n further researching
the history of my Russian family, the Barons Gunzburg, about whom I wrote in
The Four Winds of Heaven
, I discovered that my great-great-uncle, Baron Dmitri Goratsievitch de Gunzburg, had been an intimate of impresario Serge Diaghilev's and his principal backer during the years of the Ballets Russes. Before that, Dmitri had been an active backer of the Mariinsky ballet in Saint Petersburg. He was an enigmatic character, used in the 1980 Herbert Ross film
. It was Dmitri who translated Vaslav Nijinsky's shipboard proposal to his “groupie” Romola de Pulszky, a proposal that had repercussions throughout the artistic world of the time.
is a work of fiction based on true happenings that occurred within the ballet, both the Mariinsky in Saint Petersburg and Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Western Europe. Although Count Boris Kussov is not my uncle, he was largely inspired by him.
I have allowed my lead characters to usurp the roles of actual dancers, painters, and choreographers who made the Mariinsky and the Ballets Russes famous. Thus, well-known works by Bronislava Nijinska, Picasso, Larionov, Gontcharova, as well as parts played by Karsavina and other illustrious ballerinas, have in this novel been assigned to my own protagonists. This was done in tribute to these eternal Masters and Mistresses of the Balletânot in any way to take from their greatness.
The Four Winds of Heaven
, I have used the Russian naming tradition of official first name, patronymic, and last name when formality has been called for: “Count Boris Arkadievitch Kussov,” “Princess Nina Arkadievna Stassova,” etc. The nicknames (“Borya” for “Boris,” “Petya” for “Pierre,” “Arkasha” for “Arkady,” and all the other diminutives), appear when tenderness or closeness is intended. They are rather simple to figure out. I have also called Pierre, LÃ©on Bakst, and Serge Diaghilev by their French names, rather than “Pyotr,” “Lev,” and “Sergei.” In his world, Diaghilev was indeed called “Serge,” but although his friends nicknamed him “Seriozha,” it seemed better to keep it simple. The same applies to Bakst. As for my choice of Pierre over Pyotr, I find the former easier on the eye and on the tongue for us Westerners than its Russian counterpart.
In an effort to conform to the Russian world in which both women made their mark, I have called prima ballerina Mathilde Kchessinska “Kchessinskaya,” and choreographer Bronislava Nijinska “Nijinskaya.” Again, this choice was made in an effort not to tax my readers any more than they already will be by the complexity of Russian nomenclature.
The rather formal style is meant to convey the atmosphere of the upper-class European world from the turn of the twentieth century to the late Twenties.
I want to thank the wonderful editors at Delacorte, who published the original work, and my all-star editors at Penner Publishing for reissuing the novel. As always, kudos to my literary managers and friends at G.H. Literary, Italia Gandolfo and RenÃ©e C. Fountain. And, then and now, a deep curtsey to my close friend, ballerina
Barbara Chesney Schmir, whose careful eye looked over every
I recreated and helped make them real.
-Monique Raphel High
Los Angeles, California
rom the outside
, the Mariinsky Theatre appeared elegant and stately, a palace of smooth Grecian lines where it seemed fitting to produce flowing performances of the Imperial Ballet. Boris Vassilievitch Kussov, however, knew the edifice from the inside out, and now, hurrying through its dark corridors, his mind passed over his interview with the director, General Teliakovsky. They had discussed many matters regarding the current state of unrest at the Ballet. The younger dancers wanted more autonomy and were demanding changes. But Teliakovsky was of the old guard and did not think that lesser members of the company had the right to pit their own small experience against that of the Mariinsky's choreographer, Marius Petipa, who had been producing splendid ballets and revivals for half a century. He had asked Boris Kussov to confer with him because Count Boris was an important patron, respected by all concerned. But little had been accomplished.
All at once, however, Boris Kussov's thoughts were interrupted by a small invasion of students from the Imperial School of Ballet. Ah, yes, he thought, stepping aside to let them pass, they are coming here to rehearse for the Christmas production of
Then his eye, casual and amused, was caught by the girl who headed the little procession. She was older than the rest but wore the same blue-gray uniform of the student dancers. She was small and slight, and her compact young body at first reminded him of a boy's. In the semi-darkness of the corridor, her tender heart-formed face glowed, translucent as skim milk, the blue veins in her temples gently throbbing. Her eyes were almond-shaped and very brown, almost russet. They met his own without shyness, only curiosity. Her nose was too long and thin, and her lips had a sculpted delicacy, sharply defined and rather bloodless. But it was the neck that made him look twice: A smooth, vulnerable line, it proudly supported her head with its bun of fine mahogany hair.
“Excuse me,” the girl said, and then she was gone, her receding figure hidden from him by the group of younger pupils. He forgot her: just another ballerina in the forming, not as extraordinarily ethereal as Anna Pavlova, or as blooming and fresh as Karsavina or Lydia Kyasht. The directress of the ballet school, Varvara Ivanovna Lithosherstova, graduated girls like these every spring, and it was impossible to predict which ones would rise to stardom and which would remain ensconced in the
corps de ballet.
Count Boris Kussov raised the astrakhan collar of his coat and steeled himself for the bleak December winds of Theatre Street.
As he spotted his carriage, he thought gloomily: It is almost Christmas again, but why, then, is joy eluding us? The last two years snapped into focus, first the war with Japan in â04, which had decimated the Russian navy, and then the year now coming to a close, 1905. For over a month, a workers' strike had virtually immobilized St. Petersburg, his lovely city. Nearly a year ago on Bloody Sunday, armed Cossacks had fired upon a peaceful procession bearing a petition to Tzar Nicholas II. The Tzar, who was not Boris's favorite member of the Imperial Familyâhis own intimate friend was the Tzar's uncle, the Grand Duke Vladimir, expansive and a lover of the artsâhad not been at the Winter Palace, where the procession of innocents had been headed. But Boris's own victoria had nearly been overturned in the mÃªlÃ©e, and his coachman hurt. And now even in the rarified atmosphere of the Mariinsky there hung clouds of unrest, germs of dissent.
“Home, for God's sake, Yuri,” he said to the driver as the latter bundled him into the warmth of his carriage. Abruptly he recalled the girl's white face, her autumn eyes, and an odd thought occurred to him. “You, too, have not known joy,” he said to her remembered image. She was so young, and very nearly beautifulâbut somehow incomplete, somehow tarnished. And then he smiled ironically. What a fool he was, speaking to himself! . . .
hen Count Boris Vassilievitch Kussov
entered his bachelor quarters on the Boulevard of the Horse Guard, not far from the Winter Palace where the Tzar resided, he was heartened by the orange-red flames that crackled in the fireplace. The thick quilt that his coachman had placed upon his lap in the victoria had not kept him warm in the subzero weather, and he was cold to his very bone. His valet removed the fur coat, and now Boris stood with his back to the fire, surveying the charming living room, the only place where his restive soul ever felt at peace. His intellectual friends mocked his taste for personal luxury but had to grant him excellent marks for decoration. Small tables with delicate inlays stood beside Louis XV chairs and love seats, and Renaissance paintings made interesting contrasts with sketches by his friend, LÃ©on Bakst, and the green and gold hues of a CÃ©zanne. Boris touched the Delia Robbia enamel medallion hanging above the alabaster fireplace and felt revived. “Do I have an appointment, Ivan?” he asked rather absently.
The valet cleared his throat. “Yes, Excellency. The young man from the Academy of Fine Arts is coming here in fifteen minutes. Pierre Riazhin.”
“Riazhin? I had forgotten. But I did finance his studies, didn't I? And now he's graduated? Probably a jaded young man who paints with the constipation of all the Academics.” He raised his eyebrows quizzically. “Or maybe he's rebelled and joined the Ambulant schoolâthen he's probably crude and intense, as befits the son of a liberated serf, out to educate the
Ah, well, Ivan, prepare us a lavish tea. But without caviar and such. This Riazhin comes at a bad time. I'm exhausted.”
When the servant had departed, Boris walked to the large gilt mirror and examined his reflection. He was indeed tired, but his fatigue in no way detracted from the artistry of his elegant figure, which was like one of his own beloved works of art. The mirror did not reveal his tall stature, his slender hips, but it captured the symmetry of his straight shoulders and narrow waist, of his poised neck and long face. His eyes, a light, metallic blue, made him look cold, and his hair, pure Florentine gold interspersed with an occasional thread of gray, was brushed back from a high forehead. The creases at the outer corners of his eyes, coupled with the somewhat lopsided smile of his rather thin lips, hinted at irony rather than mirth. His nose was aquiline, with nostrils that quivered like those of a nervous Thoroughbred. He put a fingernail to his waxed mustache, then gently scratched beneath his neatly trimmed beard. People had told him he resembled his mother, who had died in his youth, and Boris was pleased, for Countess Kussova had been one of the great beauties of Tzar Alexander's court. One of Russia's treasures, he thought with wry amusement. His friend, Serge Diaghilev, had created quite a stir earlier that year by setting up a massive exhibition of national masterpieces at the Tauride Palace: What a shame that he had not had a portrait of the deceased countess at his disposalâ¦.
The doorbell sounded, gently muted, and presently Ivan entered, announcing Monsieur Pierre Riazhin. Boris did not think he had ever met the young man, for over the years he had supported many artists and musicians during their education. Boris felt in the artistic endeavors of other men a vicarious catharsis that filled a void in his own being. Now, he looked up to see Riazhin enterâand at once, he registered surprise.
Pierre Riazhin was not elegant. He was young, perhaps twenty-two, and if Boris had not seen him face to face, he might not have noticed any quality to set Pierre apart from others. But Boris saw the vitality in Pierre's face, square and strong with high cheekbones healthily flushed, from which dark eyes beneath thick black brows moved with instant attention over the delicate furnishings of the room and over Boris himself. Riazhin's body was compact and quick, and his host thought: He is a black panther out of its element, sniffing at a strange lair. But the young man's clothing denoted, above all, spare means. He clasped a large portfolio beneath his arm. “Sir,” he said. He gave a quick jerk of a bow, and Boris was suddenly glad that he had not said “Excellency.” He himself
said to the valet: “We
have the caviar sandwiches, Ivan.”
Boris Kussov motioned his caller to a small settee facing the fire and sat down in an armchair on the side. “My dear Riazhin,” he began, with a charming smile, “I have forgotten your patronym. You are Pierre â¦?”
“Pierre Grigorievitch Riazhin. I have come to you for several reasons, sir. First of allâ”
“Yes, yes, we can dispense with that. You want to thank me, of course. I accept your thanks. But I am curious as to what sort of brushstrokes I have set in motion, so to speak. When did you finish at the Academy, Pierre Grigorievitch?”
“In the spring. I then returned to my native Georgia in the Caucasus and have attempted to put together the best of my work. I wished to show it to you in this small collection, for I know that your opinion is valued by painters whom I greatly admire.”
“Ah. And who may they be?” Boris accepted the large portfolio and laid it open on his lap. An intense splash of color drew his attention, and he forgot the young man and instead concentrated on the riot of magentas and oranges on the page before him. Riazhin had depicted a girl, a gypsy or a peasant, Boris could not be sure, but a girl of the wild, of the Steppes. Her look was defiant, maybe angry, certainly proud. To Boris she resembled the young man in his sitting room.
“I can see why you planned a trip to your homeland,” Boris said, slowly stroking his mustache. “I do not know that area wellâthe Caucasus. But you belong there, in full costume: a long red tunic closed with gold braid and a sling of cartridges around your chest, your rifle at your back, black trousers stuffed into high boots of fine leather. With a fur cap upon your black curls, to complete the effect. Certainly a vast improvement over your present attire, I dare say.”
But the young man did not smile. His eyes blazed offense.
“Is it true then that Caucasians punish the slightest affront with a shot in the back?” Boris continued, mockingly.
Riazhin clenched his fists in his lap, then regarded the older man with disconcerting directness. “Not quite, sir. When a guest offends us, we smile so long as he remains within our premises. He may kill our brother or rape our sister, yet that does not alter our obligation as hosts. But when he bids us farewell, and we escort him out, hospitality ceases the minute he crosses the boundary line of our domain. At that point, revenge is ours. It is possible, sometimes likely, that we may shoot him then. We are savage, cruel but proud. In the capital we learn to adjust, but when we are children, we are taught to ride wild horses long distances, and so we grow up as centaurs, half man, half beast.” The young man was smiling, revealing large white teeth between full, sensuous lips.
“Your work reflects your origins, Pierre Grigorievitch. But your name is too tame, too civilized. You should be called by some noble Georgian appellation, such asâ¦maybe âKhadjatur?'”
“If you do not think much of my sketches and paintings, then I shall go,” Riazhin said tightly.
Boris burst out laughing. “Right now
guest. It would hardly do to shoot your host. Do not take such small jokes to heart. I find your art quite extraordinaryâpowerful, real, yet also touched with the fantastic. In shortâyou could become another Bakst. OrâI could be entirely wrongâa CÃ©zanne. Now, who were those friends of mine whom you claim to admire?”
“You mentioned one of them: LÃ©on Bakst. Then, naturally, there was my old teacher, Valentin Serov. Also Somov, Benoisâalthough I am not given to landscapes of his tenderness, my own work being somewhat moreâ”
“Fierce. Yes. Serov taught you at the Academy?”
“Briefly. He resigned because of his outrage over Bloody Sunday, and since then I have not seen him. That was why I came to you, and not him. I would not have known where to find him, or whether he remembered me. Naturally, I had also wished to thank youâ”
Boris smiled. “You would have come last spring, had that been all you wished. No, you are an ambitious sort, Pierre Grigorievitch. You came to be introduced to my groups of friends, the ones who used to put together the
World of Art
review. You knew that I had been a part of those people. You also remembered that I had money. Everyone remembers that in reference to me: Count Boris Vassilievitch Kussov, whose good taste we may flatter so that he may untie his purse strings. Oh, I am hardly blind to such machinations, but surely a man of your directness would be ashamed of employing flattery as a tactic? I am disillusioned.”
“You may address me as Boris Vassilievitch. You are not my servant. If I am to sponsor youâah, here comes Ivan with tea! I hope your appetite matches your talent. I am famished, myself.”
Pierre Riazhin opened his mouth and started to rise, but felt Boris Kussov's gently restraining hand on his arm. He sat down uncomfortably and regarded his host, and this time the black eyes seemed almost to plead for an explanation. Boris's own blue eyes softened, but he said nothing as Ivan laid a magnificent tea upon the table. The young painter's expressive face had made him recall the girl in the hallway of the Mariinsky. How different those two faces were, and yet how liquid the eyes! He sighed, and felt the weight of his thirty years. Riazhin was in his earliest twenties, and the dancer? Sixteen, at most? Two very young people who did not need money in order to expand into creativity, two people with urges that he had never felt, would never feel. And yet he was surprised that the girl had not already slipped from his memoryâ¦.