Vaslav Nijinsky’s diaries

Vaslav Nijinsky, originally uploaded by Coilhouse.

In recent days I’ve descended into a Vaslav Nijinsky vortex, my obsession with abnormal psychology drove me to find every bit of information i could. Easily one the most influential dancers and another brilliant creator whose genius turned to madness, his diaries are a keyhole glimpse into a fascinating mind detaching itself from the world.

I retired into myself. I retired so deep into myself that I could not understand people. I know that everyone will suffer reading these lines, because I know that people will feel me. I’m a strong man, not a weak one. I’m not sick in the body. I feel a piercing stare from behind. I feel people want to harm me, but I will not fight and my enemy will be disarmed. They may wound me, but they will not kill me. I’m not afraid of suffering, because God will be with me. I know how to suffer.

There is a magnetism to his photos and even his slipping words that mystifies me; one can only imagine who he must have been to his contemporaries. Praises to his dance legacy have been sung and are widely available on the web – that isn’t why we’re here. Madness, seemingly sudden, warped half of his life and kept him frequently institutionalized until his death. What interests me is his documentation of the descent, 6 weeks of his experience prior to being committed in 4 notebooks, now published in full, which i am compelled and terrified of reading.

The doctor is leaving and I do not want to see him off. I want him to feel that his medical opinion is not needed. He came to say goodbye and I shook his hand. He asked me not to write too much. I told him not to worry about me. He asked me whether I’d like to see a specialist in Zurich. I replied that I did not know, but if my wife so wishes, I would see him. The nerves in my head hurt me. I feel my blood has rushed from my head. I feel death near me. I am afraid that I will be put into an asylum.

But it isn’t all Strindberg-style introspection. Nijinsky shares everything from the backstage intrigues of Ballet Russe, to views on politics, his relationship with ballet giant Diaghelev, a profound obsession with bodily functions and more. He wanted his diaries to be published and hoped they would save the world.

Diaghelev likes to say that he created the ballet, because he likes to be praised. I do not mind if Diaghelev says that he composed the stories of “Faune” and “Jeux,” because when I created them, I was under the influence of ‘my life’ with Diaghelev. The Faune is me and Jeux is the life which Diaghelev dreamed. Diaghelev wanted to make love to two boys at the same time and wanted these boys to make love to him. In the ballet, the two girls represent the two boys, and the young man is Diaghelev. I changed the characters, as love between three men could not be represented on the stage…

It’s been said that the idea of the genius-madman is an insult to artists, still the connection is very much present. While madness is not always genius and genius is not always madness, it is certainly common for one to lead to the other and vise versa. Having a unique perspective can make one first be recognized as a great & gifted innovator, but then cast out or institutionalized when that same gift becomes a social hazard. That very spark, that different way of seeing, sequesters, alienates in the end.

5 Responses to “Vaslav Nijinsky’s diaries”

  1. the daniel Says:

    Why is the idea of the genius-madman seen as insulting to artists? Do you mean some people suggest that all artistic geniuses are necessarily crazy, or is it just that the stereotype that some genius-madmen exist is damaging to all artists?

  2. zoetica Says:

    I imagine because this idea’s become very nearly a stereotype which some don’t appreciate, you see.

  3. Nadya Says:

    I read up some more on him. How sad, the way he went crazy! Actually, for some reason what really breaks my heart is his tombstone:

    I don’t know why, but I think that this is the saddest-looking Tombstone I’d ever seen.

    If only he’d had Helium to cheer him up.

  4. zoetica Says:

    It was difficult to narrow this down to a single topic – his entire life is very interesting! But yes the tombstone, the fact that they chose Petrushka of all his characters, is very sad. It would have been better to use the Faun.

  5. Jim Maguire Says:

    How can I optain a copy right of an image or a copy right free image of Vaslov Nijinsky? Jim