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  • Published: 9 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780141979434
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • RRP: $35.00

The Europeans

Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture




The acclaimed historical portrait of the love triangle between an opera star, a writer and an impresario - and their role in Europe's 19th-century cultural Renaissance

The Europeans is a richly enthralling, panoramic cultural history of nineteenth-century Europe, told through the intertwined lives of three remarkable people: a great singer, Pauline Viardot, a great writer, Ivan Turgenev, and a great connoisseur, Pauline's husband Louis. Their ambitious lives and complex loves were bound up with an astonishing array of writers, composers and painters all trying to make their way through the exciting, prosperous European cultural landscape that came about as a result of huge economic and technological change. This culture - through trains, telegraphs and printing - allowed artists of all kinds to exchange ideas and make a living, as they travelled across the whole continent from the British Isles to Imperial Russia.

The Europeans is Orlando Figes' masterpiece. It describes huge changes through intimate details, little-known stories and through the lens of Turgenev and the Viardots' touching, strange love triangle. Events which we now see as central to European high culture are made completely fresh, allowing the reader to revel in the sheer precariousness with which the great salons, premieres and bestsellers came into existence.

  • Published: 9 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780141979434
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 576
  • RRP: $35.00

About the author

Orlando Figes

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. Born in London in 1959, he was previously a Lecturer in History and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. A People’s Tragedy received the Wolfson Prize, the NCR Book Award, the W.H. Smith Literary Award, the Longman/History Today Book Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is the author of many other books on Russian historyincluding Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia, The Whisperers: Private life in Stalin’s Russia, Crimea: the Last Crusade and Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag.

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Praise for The Europeans

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

I loved the book. I read it in every spare moment, fascinated and sometimes surprised. ... I have been speaking about the book to everyone I know: it is clearly not just a book for musicians but for the widest audience interested in literature, music and art.

Barbara Hannigan

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

A timely, brilliant and hugely enjoyable book ... A magnificently humane book, written with supple grace but firmly underpinned by meticulous scholarship.

Rupert Christiansen, Sunday Telegraph

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

[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

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

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