My new book will be published just two days before the 72nd anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s death on March 28 2015, and a few days before his birthday on April 1, so I have been thinking about his 142nd birthday. What would he have thought of my book if he could have read it? I don’t think Rachmaninoff would have recoiled from the categories I tried to unpack – history, nationalism, culture, creativity, love, sex, money, secrecy, exile, and so forth. But what would have made of the main theme, his nostalgia for Russia and the contexts of that nostalgia?
I have also been thinking about who one writes a book for. Not just named dedicatees but dedicatees in the heart. I wrote the book, of course, with Rachmaninoff-the-man forever on the tip of my imagination, nor did the spectre of that life leave me once. I also wrote it, as the printed dedication states, for Evelyn, an American woman whose conflicted life begged for understanding. And I wrote it for myself, to situate myself between these diametrically opposed poles: a great Russian composer with alien beliefs and values to anything I had known or would ever know, and an American woman whose life curve mirrored mine in so many ways yet whose conflicts were also alien, like Rachmaninoff’s, to my own mindset. The similarities and differences of all three figures drove me on.