Synopses & Reviews
Serge Prokofiev was one of the twentieth centuryand#8217;s most brilliant composers yet is an enigma to historians and his fans. Why did he leave the West and move to the Soviet Union despite Stalinand#8217;s crimes? Why did his astonishing creativity in the 1930s soon dissolve into a far less inspiring output in his later years? The answers can finally be revealed, thanks to Simon Morrisonand#8217;s unique and unfettered access to the familyand#8217;s voluminous papers and his ability to reconstruct the tragic, riveting life of the composerand#8217;s wife, Lina.
Morrisonand#8217;s portrait of the marriage of Lina and Serge Prokofiev is the story of a remarkable woman who fought for survival in the face of unbearable betrayal and despair and of the irresistibly talented but heartlessly self-absorbed musician she married. Born to a Spanish father and Russian mother in Madrid at the end of the nineteenth century and raised in Brooklyn, Lina fell in love with a rising-star composerand#8212;and defied convention to be with him, courting public censure. She devoted her life to Serge and to art, training to be an operatic soprano and following her brilliant husband to Stalinand#8217;s Russia. Just as Serge found initial acclaimand#8212;before becoming constricted by the harsh doctrine of socialist-realist musicand#8212;Lina was at first accepted and later scorned, ending her singing career. Serge abandoned her and took up with another woman. Finally, Lina was arrested and shipped off to the gulag in 1948. She would be held in captivity for eight awful years. Meanwhile, Serge found himself the tool of an evil regime to which he was forced to accommodate himself.
The contrast between Lina and Serge is one of strength and perseverance versus utter self-absorption, a remarkable human drama that draws on the forces of art, sacrifice, and the struggle against oppression. Readers will never forget the tragic drama of Linaand#8217;s life, and never listen to Sergeand#8217;s music in quite the same way again.
"Born in 1897 into a family that was not exactly prosperous but had enough resources to travel around Europe and to New York, Lina inherited her father's deep love of music and her mother's courage, impetuosity, and strong commitment to various causes. Drawing on newly available materials from the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art and the Serge Prokofiev Estate, music historian Morrison energetically and compellingly traces Lina's life from her childhood in Europe through her young adulthood in New York to her tempestuous marriage to the famed composer Serge Prokofiev, her time in the gulag, and her final years in the U.S. At one of his concerts in 1919, Lina met Serge and soon after they married. In their life together, Lina realized that her singing would take a backseat to his stage life, and her suffering commenced as her hopes for a music career were dashed. Later, Lina became an outspoken critic of the political regime, while Serge conformed. After he betrayed Lina and deserted her for another woman, her life fell apart quite quickly; held in captivity in prison camps from 1948 to 1956, Lina never regained her courage or energy, even after she decamped for the U.S. in 1974. Morrison powerful portrait reveals a haunting story of one woman's tragedy and one man's flaws. Agent, Will Lippincott, Lippincott, Massie, McQuilken." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
and#8212;Wall Street Journal and#160;"The sort of reading experience one might expect from a novel of foreign intrigue."
and#8212;SFand#160;Examiner and#160; "Morrison energetically and compellingly traces Linaand#8217;s life from her childhood in Europe through her young adulthood in New York to her tempestuous marriage to the famed composer Serge Prokofiev, her time in the gulag, and her final years in the U.S...Morrison's powerful portrait reveals a haunting story of one womanand#8217;s tragedy and one manand#8217;s flaws."
and#8212;Publishers Weekly "An authority on the life and works of Serge Prokofiev charts the sad biographical arc of his wife, Lina, who spent some devastating years in the Soviet gulag. Morrison, who had access to the family and significant archival collections, has produced a gripping story of a young womanand#8217;s rise into the highest social and musical circles, her marriage to Prokofiev (whose principal affection was for his music, not his family), and their globe-trotting tours and swelling celebrity...Research, compassion and outrage combine in a story both riveting and wrenching."
and#8212;Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Simon Morrison has written a brilliant and riveting tale of love, intrigue, terror, and betrayal that forces us to confront the paradox of how great art can be made by unspeakably cruel and heartless individuals."
and#8212;Leon Botstein, music director and conductor, American Symphony Orchestra, and president of Bard College
"I knew my mother-in-law in the last fifteen years of her life and understood her as a person whose relationship with Prokofiev was the driving force of her life. She was someone who was unwilling to revisit the painful aspects of her past and yet longed for her story to be heard. This well-written and impeccably researched book is an authoritative and sensitive account of an extraordinary relationship."
"In the hagiographic hall of fame that is the Russian artist's wife and#8212; Sophia Tolstoy, Anna Dostoevsky, Nadezhda Mandelstam, all muses who stood watch while their men created things of genius, and then who jealously guarded the legacy and#8212; Lina Prokofiev is odd woman out. Her story almost cannot be believed, until Simon Morrison gained access to the documents (and the trust of the family) in order to tell it. Biography does not get more important than this."
and#8212;Caryl Emerson,and#160;author of Mikhail Bakhtin and The Life of Musorgsky
"An engrossing tale, beautifully told on the basis of new material that illuminates Prokofiev's life as well as Lina's. An attractive young cosmopolitan singer lands her man, the famous composer, and ends up with him in Moscow and#8212; and then alone in the gulag. Simon Morrison has given us her story, including the parts that were too painful for her to remember."
and#8212;Sheila Fitzpatrick, professor emerita of Soviet history, University of Chicago "In "Lina and Sergeand#8217;and#8217; Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison, best known for his biography, "The Peopleand#8217;s Artist: Prokofievand#8217;s Soviet Years,and#8217;and#8217; creates a fascinating portrait of the self-absorbed couple. Linaand#8217;s dramatic story, new to Western readers, reveals Prokofiev beyond his famously unsentimental exterior. Beginning with Linaand#8217;s arrest, which had "shaken" Prokofiev, Morrison maintains strong narrative tension, following the couple back to their cosmopolitan milieus before the ill-fated relocation." -- Boston Globe
The dramatic, untold story of Lina and Serge Prokofiev, a doomed love story and a shattering portrait of an artist.
The doomed love story of Lina Prokofiev, and the human cost of great art Simon Morrisons portrait of Lina and Serge Prokofiev is the story of a remarkable woman who fought for survival in the face of betrayal and despair, and the brilliant, self-absorbed artist she married. Born at the end of the 19th century and raised in Brooklyn, Lina fell in love with Serge and defied convention to be with him. She followed her genius husband to Stalins Russia, but her singing career ended and Serge abandoned her for another woman. Then, in November 1948, Lina was sent to the gulag. She was held in captivity for eight painful years. Meanwhile, Serge found himself the tool of a pitiless regime, to which he had to conform—even while producing some of the 20th centurys greatest musical works.
Lina and Serge is a remarkable human drama drawing on the forces of art, sacrifice, and the struggle against oppression. Readers will never forget the tragic and triumphant sweep of Linas life, and never again listen to Serges music without seeing the flawed man behind it.
About the Author
Simon Morrison is Professor of Music History at Princeton, where he earned his PhD in musicology. A leading authority on composer Serge Prokofiev, he is the author of The People's Artist, along with numerous scholarly articles, and features for the New York Times. In 2011, Morrison was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.