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Twilight of Love


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About the Author

Robert Dessaix is one of Australia's most respected writers and broadcasters. His previous books include A MOTHER'S DISGRACE, NIGHT LETTERS and CORFU. He lives in Melbourne.


Dessaix, a well-known Australian literary historian who has previously written on Ivan Turgenev (Turgenev: The Quest for Faith), here explores the nature of the novelist's lifelong love for French opera singer Pauline Viardot. The star of the book, however, is not Turgenev, but Dessaix himself, who attempts to find bridges in time to the footholds of Turgenev's life so that he can better understand his subject's experiences and emotions. As a biography, the book is impressionistic and speculative, qualities that make it easier to imagine Turgenev than to learn about him. But imagining a great Russian novelist over a century dead is no mean feat, and ultimately Dessaix is successful at taking us with him on his travels. Twilight of Love is actually the only biography in English that takes place within the lifespan of Turgenev's love. Particularly because of its focus on Turgenev's relationship with Viardot, it should be included in all college and university libraries specializing in Russian studies or Russian literature.-Maria Kochis, California State Univ., Sacramento Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Dessaix, an Australian writer, scholar and radio presenter, may not be well known in America, but this enchanting memoir of his search for the soul of Russian writer Turgenev (1818-1883) could raise his profile. Growing up in Australia in the 1950s, Dessaix unaccountably fell in love with the Russian masters and ended up studying at Moscow University and teaching Russian language and literature. His passion for Turgenev developed over some 30 years. Feeling the urge to know his old friend better, Dessaix set out to visit Turgenev's various homes in Germany, France and Russia. Like other scholars, Dessaix was perplexed by the writer's love life; his passion for married opera singer Pauline Viardot led him into a lifelong triangle with her and her husband. As Dessaix admits, "[I]f I could find the right word for what Turgenev felt, perhaps the love my own life is rooted in would grow even more luxuriantly." While the problem of irrational love in a world of reason is the dominant theme, Dessaix's work explores much more: Russian theology, the experience of being far away and therefore barbarian in European eyes, the modern confusion of the erotic with the sexual, and of course, the problem of death. Agent, Australian Literary Management. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Before he was a broadcaster, novelist and belletrist, Robert Dessaix was an academic specialising in Russia and its literature. In this fine book, he returns full circle to his literary first love: Ivan Turgenev, perhaps the most accessible of the great nineteenth-century Russian novelists. He relates his own recent cathartic journey through Germany, France and finally Russia itself in search of the places where his hero spent his curious life, often in exile, and often in a passionate yet probably chaste ménage a trois with a French opera singer and her husband. Time spent in Dessaix’s company is well-rewarded: he’s a thoughtful, informative and entertaining travelling companion as he reveals Turgenev’s life, times and work. But ultimately Turgenev’s life causes Dessaix to consider his own life and times, and to pose larger questions: how did Turgenev see love and happiness, or the possibility of them? What do our own choices in love—at a time when romantic love is coming to an end—say about us? What has been lost in the global consumer paradise that we, and modern Russians, now live in? Twilight of Love attempts some profound, although perhaps not conclusive, answers. Like Dessaix, I’m warming to the idea of rereading Turgenev, whose works are still available in very readable translations. Andrew Wilkins is AB&P’s publisher. C. 2004 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

"This is what Robert Dessaix does best: an amalgam of travel writing, anecdotes, reminiscences, cultural and literary commentary, with a dash or two of politics and history as well, all of it held together by a pleasingly discursive style."

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