Eva Stachniak is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of four novels. The Winter Palace was a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year and made The Washington Post’s most notable fiction list in 2012.
She holds a PhD in literature from McGill University.
Born and raised in Poland, she moved to Canada in 1981, and lives in Toronto.
The Chosen Maiden, her fifth novel, will be published in January of 2017.
“Reading The Chosen Maiden is like entering Aladdin’s Cave, where a vivid, strange and enchanting world awaits. This is the world Stachniak paints of the Ballets Russes, replete with firebirds and fauns, love affairs and bitter artistic rivalries. Most of all, it is the thrilling world of the Great Nijinsky and his passionate and unforgettable sister Bronia, whose discipline and talent rival her famous brother’s, but whose greatest genius may be her will to survive. Spanning two world wars and the Russian Revolution, Eva Stachniak’s sumptuous and evocative dance of the Chosen Maiden is the dance of 20th century history.”
– Shaena Lambert is the author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance.
“Carefully researched and capaciously imagined, Stachniak’s new novel tells the story of Bronia Nijinska, a gifted dancer and choreographer oftentimes overshadowed by her prodigy brother Vaslav Nijinsky. More than just an absorbing historical account of an avant-garde artist, The Chosen Maiden is a fully-realised tale of family, love, loss, and enduring resilience.”
-Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls.
Eva Stachniak is every bit as good at invoking Imperial Russiaas Hilary Mantel is in conjuring up the Tudor Era in England.
-Carol Bishop – author of The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca
My last address? For this ship may well become my coffin, sinking here, somewhere between Europe and America, as did SS Athenia on her way to Montreal last month. Now we, too, are a tiny speck on the grey waters of the Atlantic. If we make it, New York will greet us with its skyscrapers, those towering giant lizards, scaly and beautiful. And a new life that might not be that new after all. We make vows in moments of danger then slip back into old habits.
My London contract was cancelled the day Britain declared war on Germany. With all the theatres closed and the clock ticking on our British visas, I signed with Wassily de Basil’s company for their Australian tour. If we do go to Australia, that is. We make plans, my mother would remind me, and God laughs.
If the protracted visa interview at the American embassy in London was any indication, I’ll have to steel myself for questions, account for the contradictions of history. My imperial Russian passport declares that Бронисла́ва Фоми́нична Нижи́нская—Bronislava Fominitchna Nizhinskaya—was born in Minsk, in 1891. My Polish passport insists that Bronisława Niżyńska is a Polish citizen, born in Warsaw in 1890. My Nansen passport argues that I am stateless. Mercifully they all agree that my face is oblong, my complexion fair and my hair blond, although my eyes are described variously as green or blue.
Mine, I will defend myself, is not a simple story.
The Chosen Maiden is a work of fiction, but since it is inspired by historical characters, it is based on historical research and refers to ballets considered milestones in ballet history. If you like to get a sense of the ballets that play an important part in the novel, here is a peek into the world of Ballet Russes from its inception to the famous Parisian 1913 premiere of The Rite of Spring choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky.
This short film puts together the animated still photographs of Vaslav Nijinsky dancing in Le Roi Candaule, Le Dieu Bleu, Schéhérazade, Petrouchka, Afternoon of the Faun, as well as some footage if his choreographic masterpiece, The Rite of Spring. The compilation of these fleeting fragments ends with the haunting drawings Vaslav Nijinsky made as he was slipping into madness.
The Afternoon of the Faun is worth watching in full. In her memoirs Bronia Nijinska wrote: “Vaslav is creating his Faun by using me as his model. I am like a piece of clay that he is moulding, shaping into each pose and change of movement. ….how much I am learning form him….”
We have precious little documentation of the original 1913 production of Vaslav’s Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The Joffrey Ballet recreation of the ballet is an educated guess based on research and the testimony of dancers who took part in it. The third part is the dance of The Chosen Maiden, the role which Vaslav choreographed with his sister in mind, but which–in the original production–was danced by Maria Piltz.