Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by Chris GreenhalghCoco and Igor is a novel by Chris Greenhalgh. Set mainly in Paris in , it is based on a possible real-life affair between Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky. Coco is mesmerised by the power of Igor's composition, but the audience is scandalised by its discordant, rhythmic music and Nijinsky's primitive choreography. Coco finally meets Igor seven years later, at a dinner hosted by Sergei Diaghilev , impresario of the Ballets Russes. Igor has been forced to flee Russia — with his wife and four children — following the Russian Revolution. Coco invites him to bring his family to stay with her at her villa in Garches — 'Bel Respiro'. Both experience a surge of creativity; while Coco creates Chanel No.
BOOKS: 'Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky'
It is the basis for the film version due out in January. They do not meet on that night, but are at similar points in their early thirties and about to set the world alight in what will become legendary careers. She has just achieved her first whiff of fame after designing hats for French aristocrats, lifting her from a childhood mired in abandonment and poverty. The two are not properly introduced until by their mutual friend Sergei Diaghilev, the well-known arts critic and patron. At the time of their fated meeting, Chanel is a woman swimming in money and luxury, an independent spirit far ahead of her time. While Stravinsky is equally talented, he is financially strapped with children and Catherine, his sick and feeble wife, clinging to him. It masks a deep sense of insecurity and a profound sense of loss.
English poet Greenhalgh's debut novel about Coco Chanel and Igor's Stravinsky's short, fiery affair provides an intense look at love, passion and heartbreak. Coco first became aware of Stravinsky in when the young designer, who was beginning to make her place in French society, attended the debut performance of the Russian composer's Rite of Spring. Seven years later, when the two meet at a dinner party, an immediate and undeniable connection is forged, and soon Coco invites Stravinsky; his sickly wife, Catherine; and their children to stay at her summer home outside of Paris. She isn't without her motives, however, and proceeds over time to seduce Stravinsky. As their affair deepens, the reader's heart breaks for Catherine as she struggles with Igor's emotional abandonment. This finely wrought study in artistic and romantic passion is remarkable for its explicit depiction of the devastation left in the wake of selfishness.
People punched each other at the premiere of the Rite of Spring. Maybe it was the primal, groin-thrusting immodesty of Nijinsky's choreography. But the raw, rhythmic violence of Stravinsky's score soon spilled over into the auditorium, inciting the detractors and defenders of this epoch-making music to blows. Stravinsky's ballet music was described by one contemporary critic as being like "Russian vodka with French perfumes". The description was more apt than he realised; among the baying, brawling crowd at the first performance of the Rite of Spring was Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.
Greenhalgh also wrote the screenplay for the film. Chanel and its former chief designer Karl Lagerfeld lent their support to the production;  they granted access to the company's archives and to Coco Chanel's apartment at 31, rue Cambon, Paris.
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