CULTURE

Diary reveals troubled mind of Nijinsky

«Earth is the head of God / My pulse is an earthquake / I am an earthquake.» These are some of the surreal phrases that the celebrated dancer Vaslav Nijinsky wrote in a diary he kept over a six-week period in 1919 when he was living at Saint Moritz with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. In the twilight of his career, Nijinsky was struck by some kind of mental illness from which it seems that he never recovered. Composed in four parts, his diary is interesting on many counts; considered to be the only diary composed by an artist in a psychotic state, it is an original documentation of Nijinsky’s thoughts and mental strains. It sheds light on the idiosyncratic personality of one of the 20th century’s most gifted and legendary artists but also makes one think about notions of mental illness at the time. Excerpts of the diary were first published in 1936 – Nijinsky was still alive – in a translation by his wife Romola, also a dancer. However, the morally shocking bits were left out and the full version of the diary had to wait decades for its publication. The first full publication in Greek has just been released by Agra publications in a book that also contains a broad selection of photographs from Nijinsky’s life and artistic milieu. Translated and with a foreword by Natassa Hasioti, the book also contains two informative essays by dance specialist Joan Acocella (her translated introduction to an original English publication) and Christian Dumais-Lvowski (his introduction to the French version). Both essays provide essential clues to understanding the often abstruse and bizarre writings of Nijinsky. They speak of Nijinsky’s eccentric and anti-social behaviour, his tumultuous erotic liaison with Serge Diaghilev, the man who essentially turned him into a star, his life with Romola and his adoption of Tolstoy’s religious ideas as he gradually lapsed into depression. An interesting read, it unravels Nijinsky not through the beauty of his movements but the intricacy of his thoughts and the vulnerability of his artistic temperament.