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Books: Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky

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I started a few days ago on The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky. It is truly fascinating, entering the mind of an artist as he slips into psychosis. One thing I'm not quite clear on, though, is how he's writing. He makes very long run-on paragraphs, jumping from one idea to another completely unrelated. For example, one such paragraph lasts for about seven pages and covers his thoughts on Nietzche vs. Darwin, nature, ape vs. man, the fact that Nijinsky can multi-task (listen to a conversation in Hungarian while writing in Russian), working-class people, Parisian prostitutes, a complaint about his pencil, back to Parisian prostitutes, why he does not eat meat (and why he ate it today even tough he does not eat meat), some thoughts on God (including the declaration that he, Nijinksy, is God), the doctor his wife had observing him, a picture he drew, thoughts on medicine. Some of it does flow in a logical sequence, like going from Darwin to nature and apes vs. men. But what I can't decide is if his thoughts actually followed this sporadic sequencing, or if he simply returned to writing at a later time and didn't bother to start a new paragraph, or if he started a new paragraph for each day. Any insight?

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With Nijinsky it's hard to tell. For years, he was identified as a schizophrenic, and the scattered nature of his writings were thought to be evidence of the so-called "split personality". (What most people are talking about when they use the phrase, though, is Multiple Personality Disorder, not schizophrenia) What he really may have been was manic-depressive - Bipolar Disorder in today's lexicon. He would have great bursts of great energy and output, then slow to a crawl where a three-word phrase could take him all afternoon. The doctor who diagnosed him as schizoid had a real vested interest in making that diagnosis - he ran the only hospital in Europe dedicated to treating schizophrenia. Nijinsky may have been receiving treatment entirely incorrect for Bipolar Disorder, and either aggravated it, or just left him in a drug-induced haze.

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Even today, it is often difficult for psychiatrists to differentiate schizophrenia from bipolar disorder. Many of the symptoms, including psychosis (which is evident in the disjointed and often obsessive thought processes in VN's Diary), tend to overlap.


Yes, I know. Sorry. Bye. :)

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  • 1 year later...

Well I personally havent read this book, but I recently rented a DVD based on just this same thing, not the life, but the diaries of Nijinsky. Kind of blury and broken in secuence. I thought it was an incredibly complex and fascinating person, but it still sort of left me wanting more (i know, i know, next time... read the book!!! :( -i want to, though- )

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I've seen the movie, too, and it's a very impressionistic treatment of the diaries. Best to read the book. You're old enough to handle it and recognize what's going on psychologically with the writer. In my non-professional opinion, it looks to me as though Nijinsky wasn't suffering from schizophrenia at all, but a runaway depression/anxiety condition, possibly even bipolar disorder. He wasn't being abused, but he was being given the wrong therapies for what he suffered from, and that's a sad story in itself. The annotations to the text of the diaries make it obvious that his physician would have had a vested interest in diagnosing schizophrenia (he invented the term), and admitting him to his own personal sanatarium.

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  • 4 years later...

I so want to read this book. I own it, and I've gotten a little more than halfway through, but I'm to the point where it's mostly babbling in nonsense words. Maybe I'll be able to get through it when I'm older. It's really fascinating, especially since psychology is something I'm very interested in (aand possibly as a college major), but I just can't bring myself to finish it. Yet.

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Let us know what you think when you do finish it!!!

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