Lina and Serge by Simon Morrison
The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev

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Morrison tells a good story, without excess or indulgence, and with touching empathy for his heroine. Lina Prokofiev was no saint: she was truly a femme moyenne sensuelle, good-looking but not specially talented, a spirited, sharp-tongued arguer.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Serge Prokofiev was one of the twentieth century’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 Stalin’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 Morrison’s unique and unfettered access to the family’s voluminous papers and his ability to reconstruct the tragic, riveting life of the composer’s wife, Lina.

Morrison’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 composer—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 Stalin’s Russia. Just as Serge found initial acclaim—before becoming constricted by the harsh doctrine of socialist-realist music—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 Lina’s life, and never listen to Serge’s music in quite the same way again.
www.hmhbooks.com/linaandserge
 

About Simon Morrison

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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.
 
Published March 19, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 349 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography, Travel, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Lina and Serge
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Stephen Walsh on Mar 30 2013

Morrison tells a good story, without excess or indulgence, and with touching empathy for his heroine. Lina Prokofiev was no saint: she was truly a femme moyenne sensuelle, good-looking but not specially talented, a spirited, sharp-tongued arguer.

Read Full Review of Lina and Serge: The Love and ... | See more reviews from Guardian

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Norman Lebrecht on Mar 15 2013

Simon Morrison has pieced together a compelling account of her life from family and official fragments and from the notes of two scholars who interviewed her.

Read Full Review of Lina and Serge: The Love and ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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