The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture

The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture

From the “master of historical narrative” (Financial Times), a dazzling, richly detailed, panoramic work—the first to document the genesis of a continent-wide European culture.

The nineteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented artistic achievement. It was also the first age of cultural globalization—an epoch when mass communications and high-speed rail travel brought Europe together, overcoming the barriers of nationalism and facilitating the development of a truly European canon of artistic, musical, and literary works. By 1900, the same books were being read across the continent, the same paintings reproduced, the same music played in homes and heard in concert halls, the same operas performed in all the major theatres.

Drawing from a wealth of documents, letters, and other archival materials, acclaimed historian Orlando Figes examines the interplay of money and art that made this unification possible. At the center of the book is a poignant love triangle: the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev; the Spanish prima donna Pauline Viardot, with whom Turgenev had a long and intimate relationship; and her husband Louis Viardot, an art critic, theater manager, and republican activist. Together, Turgenev and the Viardots acted as a kind of European cultural exchange—they either knew or crossed paths with Delacroix, Berlioz, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, the Schumanns, Hugo, Flaubert, Dickens, and Dostoyevsky, among many other towering figures.

As Figes observes, nearly all of civilization’s great advances have come during periods of heightened cosmopolitanism—when people, ideas, and artistic creations circulate freely between nations. Vivid and insightful, The Europeans shows how such cosmopolitan ferment shaped artistic traditions that came to dominate world culture.

Title:The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture
ISBN:9781627792141
Format Type:

    The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture Reviews

  • Susan

    This is a long, involved and interesting biography of Ivan Turgenev, the singer Pauline Viardot and her husband, Louis Viardot, alongside a passionate social history of ‘European Culture.’ Now, au...

  • Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra:With the building of the railways and new technological advances, 19th Century Europe is hovering on the brink of great change. By exploring the love triangle between a famous o...

  • Bettie

    Description: With the building of the railways and new technological advances, 19th Century Europe is hovering on the brink of great change. By exploring the love triangle between a famous opera singe...

  • Liviu

    An excellent book about the advent of European modernity (mostly arts, literature, but also science and politics) through the intertwined lives of the diva Pauline Viardot and her "co-husband" the fam...

  • Pieter

    Bestaat er zoiets als Europese cultuur? En zoja, wanneer heeft deze vorm gekregen? Orlando Figes is van mening dat midden 19e eeuw zich een canon heeft gevormd dat we vandaag hiermee vereenzelvigen. D...

  • Liz

    This is not a trendy book—because after all, who cares about European-ness in an age of isolation and Brexit?—but it is a rich and dense description of a the nineteenth century knitting together o...

  • Stephen Selbst

    Orlando Figes has written an interesting but flawed overview of the development of European culture in the 19th century. To illustrate his points, the book amounts to a short-form biography of Russian...

  • Riet

    Dit is een gecompliceerd boek. Enerzijds de biografie van drie personen, de schrijver Turgenev, de sopraan Pauline Viardot en haar echtgenoot Louis Viardot. Turgenev had het echtpaar leren kennen in S...

  • Jason Wilson

    By charting the journey of a Russian novelist in a semi love triangle with a French artistic couple , the author gives us a strong portrayal of an emerging European culture , sharing made possible by ...

  • Ietrio

    Three lives are more than enough to illustrate that rich, virile Cosmopolitan Culture of Europe that has generated:* ethnic cleansing* exchanges of populations* pogroms* two World Wars* the Holocaust*...