The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture has been published to critical acclaim in the UK and US:
"Magnificent. Beautifully written, immaculately researched and thoroughly absorbing from start to finish. A tour de force that explains how Europe's cultural life transformed during the course of the 19th century - and so much more." (Peter Frankopan)
"Magnificent and utterly gripping: European identity, culture and commerce through the lives of three remarkable individuals, the book for our times." (Philippe Sands)
"It plunged me into another world. I learned so much and was carried away by the intelligence and fluidity of the style - a combination which is unbeatable." (Antonia Fraser)
"There are a multitude of fascinating pieces of information to be gleaned from Orlando Figes's magisterial and wide-ranging book The Europeans ... Relevant, trenchant and searching." (William Boyd, The Guardian)
"The Europeans is a massively impressive work, as enjoyable as it is knowledgeable, full of insights into the mechanisms of history and in the people who make it. It is a book about the making of Europe, and this description, wonderful as it is, has now, in these days, sadly, also almost a utopian quality to it. Orlando Figes is an outstanding historian and writer, he brings distant history so close that you could feel its heartbeat. He did it with the Russian Revolution in A People's Tragedy, and he does it again in The Europeans." (Karl Ove, Knausgaard)
"Meticulously detailed, exhaustively researched and written with Figes's characteristic verve, The Europeans is a sweeping tour de force and a monumental work of historical synthesis." (Julian Coman, The Observer)
"Figes in his maturity is a fine, subtle writer with a nice eye for detail and clever with structure. I finished the book entertained, informed and armed with the kinds of insights and questions that will keep me happily going for the rest of the year." (David Aaronovitch The Times)
"Remarkable ... Orlando Figes is a fine historian who combines scholarly detail with readability. His wide-ranging book touches on a multitude of subjects. But at its heart is a love triangle - the very human story of three remarkable individuals whose lives he has resurrected with great sympathy and insight. "(Nick Rennison, Daily Mail)
"Timely, brilliant and hugely enjoyable ... A magnificently humane book, written with supple grace but firmly underpinned by meticulous scholarship." (Rupert Christiansen, Sunday Telegraph)
"Figes's knowledge is breath-taking in its range and precision ... A conclusion to draw from The Europeans is that tribalism is stronger than art ... This a melancholy reflection, but it accentuates, rather than reduces, the value of Figes's tumultuously informative and educative work." (John Carey, Sunday Times)
"His monumental work is the product of thorough and extensive research, largely in archival sources and in several languages. The author has a remarkable capacity to keep a huge quantity of factual material present in mind, and to bind it moreover into a coherent story. Mr. Figes's magisterial work will surely come as a welcome vivification of a splendid if vanished way of life." (Wall Street Journal)
A prodigiously researched account of the spread of culture throughout the mid and late 19th century using three specific biographies to personalize the voluminous historical data. Figes returns with another astonishing work displaying his vast knowledge of art, music, literature, culture, and history. Wisely, he uses three people to embody much of his discussion: Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, French singer Pauline Viardot, and her husband, Louis, a political activist and literary figure. The author follows these three over the decades—Turgenev and Pauline had an intimate relationship that Louis tolerated—and through their stories, we see specific instances of the cultural changes Figes illuminates throughout the book. The growth of railways, the advances in photography and publication, the explosion in literary translations, the vast increase in literacy—these and other factors increased the development of a kind of common European culture that only the growth of nationalism, and the consequent wars, could weaken. "The arts played a central role in this evolving concept of a European cultural identity," writes Figes. "More than religion or political beliefs, they were seen as uniting people across the Continent." This necessitated the "recognition that any national culture is a result of a constant dialogue across state boundaries and of the assimilation of separate artistic traditions into a larger European world." Turgenev and the Viardots traveled continually: She was a popular singer, and, initially, it was her financial success that supported her family. Later, her voice gone, it was Turgenev's writing and generosity. In many ways, the text is a who's who of the time period. Liszt, Dickens, Balzac, Hugo, George Sand, Chopin, Tolstoy, Flaubert—these and countless other icons move smoothly through the narrative, a rich mélange of tasty ingredients. There are some mild surprises, too: Mary Shelley briefly wanders in (we read Victor Frankenstein's description of the Rhine), and Henry James makes some cameos. A powerful and essential addition to our understanding of European history and culture. (Kirkus, starred review)
To buy the book click here.
To read Orlando Figes on the extraordinary career of Pauline Viardot click to this piece in The Telegraph.
To read about the cultural links between Britain and Europe click to this piece by Orlando Figes in The Times.
To read about the development of nineteenth-century opera click on this piece by Orlando Figes in Opera Now .
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