The Europeans is both a highly original, panoramic account of how in the 19th century huge aesthetic, economic, technological and legal changes created, for the first time, a genuinely pan-European culture - and an intimate story of a great singer, Pauline Viardot, a great writer, Ivan Turgenev, and a great connoisseur, Pauline's husband Louis. Their passionate, ambitious lives caught up an astonishing array of writers, composers and painters all trying to navigate through an ever more prosperous, demanding and international culture. This culture--through trains, telegraphs and printing--allowed artists of all kinds to create a precarious but real living, shuttling back and forth, from the British Isles to Imperial Russia.
The Europeans is Orlando Figes' masterpiece. Surprising, beautifully written, it describes huge events 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, premiers and bestsellers came into existence.
Praise for The Europeans:
‘Magnificent and utterly gripping: European identity, culture and commerce through the lives of three remarkable individuals, the book for our times' Philippe Sands
‘The Europeans is a massively impressive work, as enjoyable as it is knowable, full of insights in 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 an 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 Peoples Revolution, and he does it again in The Europeans.’ Karl Ove Knausgaard
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
Timely, brilliant and hugely enjoyable…[A] magnificently humane book, written with supple grace but firmly underpinned by meticulous scholarship.’ The Telegraph
‘An extraordinary account of the development of a continental cultured class told through three remarkable figures of the late 19th century’ The Financial Times