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Summary

Nigel Cliff pieces together politics, personality and pianism to tell the remarkable story of an iconic Cold War moment and its aftermath.

In 1958, a 23-year-old Texan pianist named Van Cliburn arrived in Moscow to try his luck in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition. With Cold War tensions at their height, few thought an American stood an outside chance. Yet Cliburn played his way to a sensational upset.

Cliburn’s triumph catapulted him to rock-star celebrity in both the United States and the Soviet Union and cast him as a musical ambassador to the world. Though that role took an increasingly heavy toll, he continued to play a part in pivotal Cold War events right up to the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1987. Nigel Cliff is an award-winning non-fiction writer specialising in cultural history and the history of exploration. He is a Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford and the Royal Literary Fund.

His books include The Shakespeare Riots, The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama, and a new translation and critical edition of Marco Polo’s Travels.

His books have won Gold and Silver Nautilus Awards and have been finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Prize for Arts Writing (in the U.S.) and the PENHessell-Tiltman Award (in the UK). They have been named books of the year by the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe and have been translated into ten languages.

Born in Manchester in 1969, he attended Oxford University, where he was awarded a First in English and the Beddington Prize for English Literature. He began his career as a theatre and film critic on the Times and a contributor to the Economist, and currently reviews books for publications including the New York Times Book Review.

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