Nigel Cliff


De Britse schrijver, historicus, biograaf, criticus en vertaler Nigel Cliff werd geboren op 26 december 1969 in Manchester. Cliff studeerde met een beurs aan het Winchester College en Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, waar hij een eersteklas diploma behaalde en de Beddington Prize for English Literature. ontving. Hij was film- en theatercriticus voor The Times en medewerker aan The Economist. Hij schrijft voor een reeks publicaties waaronder The New York Times. Cliff geeft veel lezingen, onder andere aan de universiteit van Oxford, het Harry Ransom Center en de British Library. Cliff’s eerste boek, “The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama, and Death in Nineteenth-century America” werd in 2007 in de Verenigde Staten uitgegeven. Het boek was Washington Post boek van het jaar en was een finalist voor de Nationale Award for Arts Writing. Het tweede boek van Cliff was “Holy War: How Vasco da Gama’s Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-old Clash of Civilisations” uit 2011. Het werd vervolgens uitgegeven als “The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama” in 2012. Cliff’s derde boek was een nieuwe vertaling en kritische editie van “Marco Polo’s Travels” voor Penguin Classics, die in 2015 werd uitgebracht in het Verenigd Koninkrijk en de VS. Voor deze eerste geheel nieuwe vertaling sinds een halve eeuw, ging hij terug naar de originele teksten in Frans, Latijn en Italiaans. Cliff’s vierde boek, “Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story – How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War” werd in september 2016 uitgegeven. De Boston Globe noemde het het boek van het jaar. In januari 2017 werd als finalist genoemd voor de National Book Critics Circle Award. Het won de Nautilus Gold And Silver Awards.

Uit: Moscow Nights

““ON MAY 28, 1958, ticker tape snowed from the sky above Broadway, darkening an already gray New York City day and flurrying around rapturous, flag-waving crowds. High school bands marched, Fire Department colors trooped, and at the center of it all was a young American perched on the back of an open-top Continental, grinning in disbelief and crossing his hands over his heart. He was as tall, thin, and blond as Charles Lindbergh, but he was not a record-setting aviator. Nor was he an Olympic athlete or a world statesman or a victor in war. The cause of the commotion was a twenty-three-year-old classical pianist from a small town in Texas who had recently taken part in a music competition.
“What’s goin’ on here?” a stalled taxi driver yelled to a cop. “A  parade? Fer the piano player?”
The cabbie had a point. No musician had ever been honored like this. No American pianist had been front-page news, let alone a household name. But the confetti was whirling, the batons were twirling,
and on a damp morning a hundred thousand New Yorkers were cheering and climbing on cars and screaming and dashing up for a kiss. In the summer of 1958, Van Cliburn was not only the most famous musician in America. He was just about the most famous person in America—and barring the president, quite possibly the most famous American in the world.
Things got stranger. At a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were bitter enemies in a perilous Cold War, the Russians had gone mad for him before Americans had. Two months earlier he had arrived in Moscow, a gangly, wide-eyed kid on his first overseas trip, to try his luck in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. Such was the desperate state of world affairs that even musical talent counted as ammunition in the battle of beliefs, and everyone understood that the  Soviets had cranked open the gates only to prove that their virtuosos were the best. Yet for once in the tightly plotted Cold War, the authors had to tear up the script, for the real story of the Tchaikovsky Competition was beyond the imagination of the most ingenious propagandist. The moment the young American with the shock of flaxen curls sat before the piano, a powerful new weapon exploded across the Soviet Union. That weapon was love: one man’s love for music, which ignited an impassioned love affair between him and an entire nation. It came at a critical time. Five months earlier the Soviet Union had sensationally beaten the United States into space.”


Nigel Cliff (Manchester, 26 december 1969)