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Eva Stachniak

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Posted by on Jan 4, 2017

“I absolutely adored The Chosen Maiden! Such masterful, sensitive writing, I was immersed from the first page to the last. Eva Stachniak illuminates those historic pathways, blazed at such personal cost, by the ‘dance-greats.’ Most of all, I loved the humanizing of these characters—Bronia, Vaslav, Sergei Diaghilev—who imprinted their genius on our culture, whose names are so familiar, but whose origins and inner lives were not—until now.” —

Veronica Tennant, author of On Stage, Please, Filmmaker, Prima Ballerina

 

 

 


The Globe and Mail

Eva Stachniak: ‘We live in a country that embodies the essence of the 21st century’

The Chosen Maiden was born out of my fascination with Ballets Russes, a Russian dance company which, in the summer of 1909, took Paris by storm, and fundamentally transformed Western notions of modern art. I wrote it because, after over 30 years in Canada, I’m still exploring the encounters between East and West, their exhilarating possibilities and illuminating setbacks. My heroine, Bronislava (Bronia) Nijinska, the intended Chosen Maiden from the 1913 production of The Rite of Spring choreographed by her famous brother Vaslav, was a brilliant dancer and a ground-breaking choreographer. The tantalizing relationship between Bronia and Vaslav is one of the novel’s main themes. Another is a life fuelled by a passion for art and lived in between cultures, languages and ideologies, against the backdrop of bloody political upheavals – two world wars and the Russian Revolution. With the Nijinsky men gone – by choice or tragic fate – it’s the women who pick up the pieces. For me this makes The Chosen Maiden both personal and universal. Personal for it evokes the spirit of the Polish women who raised me, brave and nurturing, determined to wrench the slightest sliver of happiness from the hardest of times. Universal, for I see the very same spirit anywhere where women know that the survival of their families depends on them. MORE

 

CBC Books

Eva Stachniak on blacklisted words and the dreams of the exiled
Whether she’s re-imagining the rise of Catherine the Great or – in her latest novel, The Chosen Maiden – a gifted Russian ballet dancer, historical novelist Eva Stachniak is drawn to visionary women and how they challenge the status quo.

In the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, Stachniak answers eight questions from eight of her fellow authors.

 

The Morning Show:

Author Eva Stachniak explores ballet in the late 1800’s and early 1930’s in her new novel.

 

The Toronto Star:

…delightful …

…  a tale of intrigue, love, betrayal and redemption set in the realm of art and artists, exploring the line between dedication and obsession, creation and madness.

… Stachniak weaves together beautifully the myriad moments that bring this fascinating family and period to life.

Library Journal:

… exquisite fictionalized memoir.

… Drawing on her thorough research into Bronia’s archives, the author has teased out revealing insights into the art of the dance, and she writes skillfully about the emotional truths that arose from Bronia’s ambitions, family relations, and deep anxieties. Dance fans will welcome this graceful and entrancing foray into the recent past.

 

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The Chosen Maiden ballets 1914-1935

Posted by on Nov 5, 2016

In 1914 Bronislava (Bronia) Nijinska began her own career as a choreographer. There is no film footage of the modern ballets she choreographed in Kiev, but some images exist. 

mephisto-meller

 

1919: Vadim Meller painted Bronia Nijinska dancing in  Mephisto Waltz

 

Les Noces, choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska to Igor Stravinsky’s music premiered in June, 1923, in Paris. This recreation is danced by the Mariinsky Ballet.

 

1924:  Les Biches

Les Biches or a House Party is a ballet of social satire. Its main role, the Hostess, was played by Nijinska herself. 

1924: Le Train Bleu

Le Train Bleu refers to the train’s destination: a fashionable resort in the South of France. The costumes for Le Train Bleu were designed by Coco Chanel.

1928: Nijinska’s choreography of Ravel’s Boléro, which she created for Ida Rubinstein’s company.

 

1935: A Midsummer Night’s Dream choreography from a film directed by Max Reinhardt.

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The Chosen Maiden in Germany

Posted by on Oct 22, 2016

The German edition of The Chosen Maiden, »Die Schwester des Tänzers« is on sale in Germany. Here is the book trailer from the German publisher.

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The Chosen Maiden–an excerpt

The Chosen Maiden–an excerpt

Posted by on Apr 16, 2016

 

Room 11, Berth 3, SS American Trader.

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.

 

 

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Making History Come to Life in Historical Fiction:

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016

This is a blog I wrote for the Brockton Writers Series. Thanks for the inspiration!

Making history come alive means writing novels that create a rich and convincing fictional world which gives the reader the experience of the past. Here is how I go about it:

 Before I write:

  1. I find a period of history and historical characters that resonate with me.

 Since I grew up in Poland, I’m drawn to the stories from behind the Iron Curtain, which—I believe—has long kept Eastern Europe cut off from the rest of the world. Because I’m an immigrant, I respond to characters who changed cultures and countries, who had to re-write themselves and find new meaning in their transformations.

  1. I do general research.

At the beginning I read anything I can find on the historical characters that intrigue me: memoirs, letters, biographies, scholarly books and articles. If possible, I visit archives and talk to historians who specialize in the period.

My goal for general research is to gain a solid understanding of the historical period I intend to write about: its concerns, dilemmas, preoccupations, and joys.

  1. I make comprehensive lists of details.

I take detailed notes on anything that strikes me in my research: descriptions of clothes and daily chores; gossip, beliefs, fears; popular expressions, topics of conversations, favourite pastimes, food, drinks, and popular books.

I divide these notes into categories for easy reference and access. Among many excellent software packages designed for such tasks Scrivener is my favourite.

  1. I travel.

Visiting the locations where important scenes of my novel take place allows me to put myself there, describe what I see, and develop a feel for the lay of the land. Later when I am at my desk, writing, I find it much easier to visualize my characters in these locations and, consequently, make the scenes I write full-bodied and alive.

  1. I step away from my research.

Researching is great fun, so it can easily become a never ending quest, especially attractive on a bad writing day. After about three months of research I take a research break and focus on constructing my fictional world. By that time, all I have read and noted has become like the bottom of an iceberg, submerged, invisible, but there to support me.

 

As I write:

 

  1. I strive not to give history lessons.

There is a fine line between providing the reader with essential information and sounding like a lecturer. I mention historical facts only if and when they impact my characters’ lives. I let my characters interpret these facts, without the benefit of hindsight and from their limited—and often not entirely reliable—point of view.

  1. I don’t alter solid facts.

Writers differ considerably on their approach to historical accuracy. I don’t alter undisputed historical facts, but I make use of gaps and historical controversies if I need them for my version of the story. And since I often present historical events from my character’s point of view, I explore historical gossip and speculation, as well as the limits of private and collective memory.

  1. I take as much content as I can from the writings of the past.

The writings of the past provide me with the material from which I build my fictional world, but I do not stay away from the modern interpretation of what I find.

In Empress of the Night, for instance, I used eighteenth century descriptions of Catherine the Great’s stroke but interpreted them according to the current medical knowledge. This modern interpretation of stroke victims’ perceptions became the backbone of my novel.

The writings of the past also provide me with ideas for my character’s conversations, concerns, and dreams, and often suggest specific incidents that befall them.

  1. I recognize my own limits.

With time, values, attitudes, sensibilities change. I realize that I can never escape my own times, and neither can my readers.

I embrace these limits. I look for voices silenced or marginalized. I claim them for my characters, explore them, infuse them with new, modern meaning.

In the end the only novel I can write is a contemporary novel about the past.

  1. I remind myself of what drew me to the historical character in the first place.

 All the historical research is but an aid in creating vivid and memorable characters whose dilemmas, fears, dreams, and joys matter to me, the author, for compelling reasons.

As I began writing my novels of Catherine the Great, I kept in mind the fact that the history of her Russia affected the history of Eastern Europe, and—by extension—the history of my own family. I reminded myself that even though Catherine the Great was one of the most powerful women in history, she had to face and overcome misogyny, and that she was an immigrant to Russia who had to rewrite herself and develop a new identity, a process I am intimately familiar with.

 

A list of my favourite internet research sites:

Toronto Public Library

Internet Archive

Open Culture

BBC archives

Database of British Newspapers

Etymology Dictionary on line

Current Value of Old Money

 

On Twitter:

#twitterstorians is a great # to follow for information and tips on historical research as well as blogs by researches and students of history.

 

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Audiobooks of The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night

Posted by on May 8, 2015

Both The Winter Palace and Empress of the Night have an audiobook version. In the US both are read by an award winning Hollywood actress Beata Poźniak whose voice and passion for storytelling makes listening to both novels a great pleasure.

This is what The Hollywood Times has to say about the recoding:

The novel’s complex structure and huge cast of characters called for a narrator with an impressive range, and Pozniak certainly delivered. Her wonderfully expressive voice and authentic Eastern European accent were the perfect complement to the psychologically intense novel.

Poźniak’s smoke -and -velvet voice somehow manages to perfectly capture the lushness and richly atmospheric quality of Stachniak’s vivid prose. The nineteen hours of narration become a thrilling journey to an exotic place and time.

To listen to excerpts from both novels please go to:

http://www.booksontape.com/narrator/156649/beata-pozniak/

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