Coco Chanel, Rudolf Nureev, two great essays!

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Two orignal books on very well known characters

A small excellent publishing house Calype for Coco Chanel “A life behind the brand” by Jean Lebrun, and an established one Plon for “Le Crépuscule d’un Dieu” by Michel Canesi are proofs that even the most written about stars can be describe  in a new way. These two huge figures of the XX th century both died in early January twenty two years apart.  Jean Lebrun had won the Goncourt prize for biography in 2015 for “Notre Chanel“, a story of the houses where the couturière had lived intertwined with his personal life. This time he focuses on her Russian connections around the Ballets Russes and Diaghilev, her adventurous love life and her wartime activities. “Le Crépuscule d’un Dieu”, a pond on Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, is the story by Michel Canesi, Rudolf Nureev‘s doctor and friend for eleven years, of the dancer’s long fall after he was infected with Aids. Both books are intimate, speak of the importance of Russian ballet in Paris, are full of anecdotes and written in a witty way. Both have black and white covers.

Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971

When Peter Watson‘s biography of Nureyev came out in 1995, it was boycotted in France because it mentioned for the first time in a book, how he had died. Here, Canesi describes with great subtleties how forceful the dancer was until the last days and how he lived his stardom. As a specialist of Aids, he became Nureev’s personal doctor for the last years of his life and travelled everywhere with him. It is moving and full of information like the description of his villa in the Galli islands near Capri where mosquitoes were ferocious and tourist’s boats a nuisance. He describes the “Rudimania” with a kind a naive mind.  The great dancer and later in life, choreographer and conductor, died on January 6, 1993 at Hôpital Franco Britannique.

Rudolf Nureev at Opéra Garnier, February 7, 1983, photo Daniel Simon

On Chanel, Jean Lebrun, the long time producer of France Culture and France Inter broadcasts, has developed a witty tone for brand new informations, and the short size of the book gives it more force. After the war, when the house of Chanel had an uncertain future, she told French writer Paul Morand: “I will keep working, without a husband, without children, without grand children, without all these mirages”. It is a perfect read for a two hour train ride.

Coco Chanel “Une vie derrière la marque” by Jean Lebrun, Editions Calype and Le Crépuscule d’un Dieu, by Michel Canesi, Editions Plon.

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