Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Shipwreck

The Coast of Utopia: Part II

by Tom Stoppard

“Both a mesmerizing history lesson and a theatergoing discovery, leaving you dazzled, dazed and off to the theater bookstore to delve into this period of history that Stoppard has rendered so moving as well as enlightening. . . . A writer of brilliance and imagination who dares to navigate the deep waters of history, philosophy and ideas, Stoppard is distinguished now more than ever as he travels along the Coast of Utopia with such a beautiful retinue.” —Carol Rocamora, The Nation

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 128
  • Publication Date August 20, 2003
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4005-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9530-2
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

Comprising of three sequential plays, The Coast of Utopia chronicles the story of romantics and revolutionaries caught up in a struggle for political freedom in an age of emperors.

The Coast of Utopia is Tom Stoppard’s long-awaited and monumental trilogy that explores a group of friends who come of age under the Tsarist autocracy of Nicholas I, and for whom the term “intelligentsia” was coined. Among them are the anarchist Michael Bakunin, who was to challenge Marx for the soul of the masses; Ivan Turgenev, author of some of the most enduring works in Russian literature; the brilliant, erratic young critic Vissarion Belinsky; and Alexander Herzen, a nobleman’s son and the first self-proclaimed socialist in Russia, who becomes the main focus of this drama of politics, love, loss and betrayal. In The Coast of Utopia, Stoppard presents an inspired examination of the struggle between romantic anarchy, utopian idealism and practical reformation in what The New York Times calls, “The biggest theatrical event of the year. . . . Brilliant, sprawling. . . . A rich pageant.”

Shipwreck continues the story of Michael, the critic Vissarion Belinksky, the writer Ivan Turgenev, and their circle. As the actions shifts from Russia to Paris in the year of European revolution, it is Alexander Herzen and his wife Natalie who come to occupy the focus. Isaiah Berlin called Herzen a writer and thinker of genius, one of the greatest of nineteenth-century Russians; and it was here in the intoxicating anticipation and the dashed hopes of the 1848 revolution—when the loss of his political illusions were over shadowed by a series of personal calamities—that Herzen found his greatness, seeking the way forward for Russia, the just society and the good life.

Praise

Shipwreck generates blazing theatrical heat! Filled with coups de theatre and dialogue that opens into startling splendor.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“Unforgettable and unmissable! An experience of life as much as an experience of art.” —Clive Barnes, New York Post

“A tour de force! Rich with unforgettable images.” —Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News

“Broadway will struggle during this and possibly many other seasons to come up with an event to top this rich and highly literate drama.” —David Rooney, Variety

Utopia grows more powerful in Shipwreck—big, volatile and utterly theatrical.” —Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press

“A rare chance to see stage work—from stars and journeymen alike—at its zenith.” —Jeremy McCarter, New York Magazine

“A work that reverberates in the imagination long after the curtain has come down.” —Hilton Als, The New Yorker

Praise for The Coast of Utopia:

“Political utopianism, with all its blood-soaked passion, is back. . . . [in] the biggest theatrical event of the year. . . . Brilliant, sprawling. . . . A rich pageant. . . . [Stoppard’s characters] are besotted with idealism, they seethe at oppression, they are frustrated with life and with love. [His] trilogy is a constant reminder that the seduction of revolutionary thought is only partly in the theories; in its birthing hours it is full of drama, excitement and, yes, fun. Throughout it all Mr. Stoppard’s trademark wit is so much in evidence. . . . Stoppard’s exploration of the life of the mind in mid-19th-century Russia is a timely reminder of why . . . America’s way has always been better than the utopian alternatives.” —Adam Cohen, The New York Times

“Both a mesmerizing history lesson and a theatergoing discovery, leaving you dazzled, dazed and off to the theater bookstore to delve into this period of history that Stoppard has rendered so moving as well as enlightening. . . . A writer of brilliance and imagination who dares to navigate the deep waters of history, philosophy and ideas, Stoppard is distinguished now more than ever as he travels along the Coast of Utopia with such a beautiful retinue.” —Carol Rocamora, The Nation

“Alexander Herzen, Marx’s rival and Tolstoy’s nonfiction counterpart, enjoys a well-deserved return to center stage in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia . . . the shroud that has fallen over Herzen was not so much lifted as shaken out by Sir Tom Stoppard.” —Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic Monthly

“Stoppard’s brilliant, complex and utterly admirable trilogy . . . is a witty, highly intelligent and humorus masterpiece into twhich the specator dives as if it were a deep adventurous sea, churning up the stormy waters of 19th century history and its philosophical thinkers, political dreamers, revolutionaries and utopians.” —Verena Winter, Theater Record (UK)

“[A] dazzling, gargantuan epic—not unlike some great, sprawling Russian novel for the stage. . . . Stoppard’s language sparkles with wit—and frequently moving poetry.” —Oliver Jones, What’s On (UK)

“Refreshingly ambitious in its sweep. . . . It’s packed with reflections on idealism and political change that still have clout today.” —Benedict Nightingale, The Times (UK)

“Intelligent, lucid, eloquent and enlivened by the author’s wit and eye for the absurd. . . . The Coast of Utopia gives voice to a philosophy of moderation dear to Stoppard’s heart: respect for the individual over the collective and hatred for theories of history that sanctify the bloody sacrifice of the present as a necessary step towards some blissful illusory destination.” —Paul Taylor, Independent (UK)

“A delight in caprice, chance and the unrepeatable moment also makes this the work of a poet.” —Susannah Clapp, Observer (UK)

“A huge epic, bristling with ideas about art, love, politics, reality, and, as the overall title suggests, utopias. . . . At his best Stoppard brings long-dead people back to witty life, as well as making their philosophies both comprehensible and entertaining as he pleads against the violent, dogmatic imposition of change.” —Jane Edwards, Time Out (UK)

“Rarely, if ever, has a work so complex achieved such clarity.” —John Nathan, Jewish Chronicle (UK)

“Contains some of Stoppard’s best writing. Nobody in the theatre today can match him for a combination of sinuous argument, intellectual “lan, and sheer coruscating wit. The dialogue has a leaping, athletic energy: excitement of the mind and the heart.” —John Peter, Sunday Times (UK)

“Beautiful. . . . I was happy just luxuriating in the sheer texture of the scenes Stoppard sets before us. Stoppard adores those moments of conjunction when history is like a VIP lounge. . . . The meanings of the play cohere as you watch, not as narrative but as poetry, and keep growing in recollection. . . . His sense of history has [never] been finer—fuller—than here.” —Alastair Macaulay, Financial Times (UK)

Excerpt

Act One: Summer 1846

The garden of Sokolovo, a gentleman’s estate fifteen miles outside Moscow.

Nicholas Ogarev, aged thirty-four, has been reading to Natalie Herzen, aged twenty-nine, from a so-called thick journal, the Contemporary. Ivan Turgenev, aged twenty-eight, is supine, out of earshot, with his hat over his face.

NATALIE
Why have you stopped?

ogarev I can’t read any more. He’s gone mad. (He closes the book and lets it fall.)

NATALIE
Well, it was boring anyway.

Sasha Herzen, aged seven, runs across the garden followed by a Nurse pushing a baby carriage. Sasha has a fishing cane and a jar for tiddlers.

NATALIE (cont.)
Sasha, not too close to the river, darling!— (to the Nurse) Don’t let him play on the bank!

The Nurse follows Sasha out.

OGAREV
But . . . it was a fishing rod, wasn’t it?

NATALIE (calling)
And where’s Kolya?—(looking aside) Oh, all right, I’ll keep an eye. (resuming) I don’t mind being bored, especially in the country, where it’s part of the attraction, but a boring book I take personally. (looking aside, amused) Far better to spend the time eating marigolds. (glancing at Turgenev) Has he gone to sleep?

OGAREV
He didn’t say anything about it to me.

NATALIE
Alexander and Granovsky will be back from picking mushrooms soon . . . Well, what should we talk about?

OGAREV
Yes . . . by all means.

NATALIE
Why does it feel as though one has been here before?

OGAREV
Because you were here last year.

NATALIE
But don’t you ever have the feeling that while real time goes galloping down the road in all directions, there are certain moments . . . situations . . . which keep having their turn again? . . . Like posting stations we change horses at . . .

OGAREV
Have we started yet? Or is this before we start talking about something?

NATALIE
Oh, don’t be sideways. Anyway, something’s wrong this year . . . even though it’s all the same people who were so happy together when we took the house last summer. Do you know what’s different?

OGAREV
I wasn’t here last summer.

NATALIE
No, it’s not that. Ketscher’s gone into a sulk . . . grown men squabbling over how to make coffee . . .

OGAREV
But Alexander was right. The coffee is not good, and perhaps Ketscher’s method will improve it.

NATALIE
Oh, I’m sure it’s not like Parisian coffee! . . . Per­haps you’re wishing you’d stayed in Paris.

OGAREV
No. Not at all.

Turgenev stirs.

NATALIE
Ivan . . . ? He’s in Paris anyway, dreaming about the Opera!

OGAREV
Yes, I’ll say one thing, Viardot can sing.

NATALIE
But she’s so ugly.

OGAREV
Anyone can love a beauty. Turgenev’s love for his opera singer is a reproach to us for batting the word about like a shuttlecock. (Pause.) When Maria wrote to introduce herself to you and Alexander after we got married, she described herself as ugly. I’m paying myself a compliment.

NATALIE
She also wrote that she had no vanity and loved virtue for its own sake . . . She was no judge of her looks either, forgive me, Nick.

OGAREV (tolerantly)
Well, if we’re talking about love . . . Oh, the letters one wrote . . . “Ah, but to love you is to love God and His Universe, our love negates egoism in the embrace of all mankind.”

NATALIE
We all wrote that—why not?—it was true.

OGAREV
I remember I wrote to Maria that our love would be a tale told down the ages, preserved in memory as a sacred thing, and now she’s in Paris living quite openly with a mediocre painter.

NATALIE
That’s a different thing—one might say a normal coaching accident—but at least you had each other body and soul before the coach went into the ditch. Our friend here simply trails along in Viardot’s dust shouting brava, bravissima for favours forever withheld . . . not to mention her husband, the postillion.

OGAREV
Are you sure you wouldn’t rather talk about highway travel?

NATALIE
Would that be less painful for you?

OGAREV
For me it’s the same thing.

NATALIE
I love Alexander with my whole life, but it used to be better, when one was ready to crucify a man or be crucified for him for a word, a glance, a thought . . . I could look at a star and think of Alexander far away in exile looking at the same star, and feel we were . . . you know . . .

OGAREV (Pause.)
Triangulated.

NATALIE
Foo to you, then.

OGAREV (surprised)
Believe me, I . . .

NATALIE
Now grown-upness has caught up with us . . . as if life were too serious for love. The wives disapprove of me, and it didn’t help that Alexander’s father died and left him quite rich. Duty and self-denial are the thing among our group.

OGAREV
Duty and self-denial restrict our freedom to express our personality. I explained this to Maria—she got it at once.

NATALIE
Well, she didn’t love you properly. I know I love Alexander, it’s just that we’re not the intoxicated children we were when we eloped in the dead of night and I didn’t even bring my hat . . . And there was that other thing, too . . . He told you. I know he told you.

OGAREV
Oh, well, yes . . .

NATALIE
I suppose you’re going to say it was only a servant girl.

OGAREV
No, I wouldn’t say that. “Only a countess” is more the line I take on these things.

NATALIE
Well, it put an end to stargazing, and I’d never have known if Alexander hadn’t confessed it to me . . . Men can be so stupid.

OGAREV
It’s funny, though, that Alexander, who goes on about personal freedom, should feel like a murderer because on a single occasion, arriving home in the small hours, he . . .

Turgenev stirs and raises his head.

OGAREV (cont.) (adjusting)
. . . travelled without a ticket . . .

Turgenev relapses.

OGAREV (cont.)
. . . changed horses, do I mean?—no, sorry . . .

Turgenev sits up, taking the creases out of himself. He is somewhat dandified in his dress.

TURGENEV
Is it all right for him to eat them?

Natalie looks quickly toward Kolya but is reassured.

NATALIE (calls)
Kolya! (then leaving) Oh, he’s getting so muddy! (Natalie leaves.)

TURGENEV
Have I missed tea?

OGAREV
No, they’re not back yet.

TURGENEV
I shall go in search.

OGAREV
Not that way.

TURGENEV
In search of tea. Belinsky told me a good story I forgot to tell you. It seems some poor provincial schoolmaster heard there was a vacancy in one of the Moscow high schools, so he came up to town and got an interview with Count Strogonov. “What right have you to this post?” Strogonov barked at him. “I ask for the post,” said the young man, “because I heard it was vacant.” “So is the ambassadorship to Constantinople,” said Strogonov. “Why don’t you ask for that?”

OGAREV
Very good.

TURGENEV
And the young man said—

OGAREV
Oh.

TURGENEV
“I had no idea it was in Your Excellency’s gift, I would accept the post of ambassador to Constantinople with equal gratitude.” (Turgenev laughs loudly by himself. He has a light high voice, surprising in one of his frame, and a braying laugh.) Botkin’s taken up a collection to send Belinsky to a German spa . . . doctor’s orders. If only my mother would die, I’d have at least twenty thousand a year. Perhaps I’ll go with him. The waters might reassure my bladder. (He picks up the Contemporary.) Have you read what Gogol’s got in here? You could wait till the book comes out . . .

OGAREV
If you ask me, he’s gone mad.

Natalie returns, wiping soil from her hands.

NATALIE
I call to him as if he can hear me. I still think one day I’ll say, “Kolya!” and he’ll turn his face to me. (She wipes a tear with her wrist.) What do you think he thinks about? Can he have thoughts if he has no names to go with them?

TURGENEV
He’s thinking muddiness . . . flowerness, yellowness, nice-smellingness, not-very-nice-tastingness . . . The names for things don’t come first, words stagger after, hopelessly trying to become the sensation.

NATALIE
How can you say that—you, a poet?

OGAREV
That’s how we know.

Turgenev turns to Ogarev, silenced and deeply affected.

TURGENEV (Pause.)
I thank you. As a poet. I mean, you as a poet. I myself have started writing stories now. (Turgenev starts to leave towards the house.)

OGAREV
I like him. He’s not so affected as he used to be, do you think?

Turgenev returns, a little agitated.

TURGENEV
You don’t understand Gogol, if I may say so. It’s Belinsky’s fault. I love Belinsky and owe a great deal to him, for his praise of my first poem, certainly, but also for his complete indifference to all my subsequent ones—but he browbeat us into taking Gogol as a realist . . .

Alexander Herzen, aged thirty-four, and Timothy Granovsky, aged thirty-three, approach, Herzen with a basket.

NATALIE (jumps up)
They’re here . . . Alexander!

She embraces Herzen as warmly as decorum allows her.

HERZEN
My dear . . . but what’s this? We haven’t come from Moscow.

Granovsky goes unsmilingly towards the house.

NATALIE
Have you been quarrelling?

HERZEN
Disputing. He’ll get over it. The only trouble is, we were having such an interesting talk . . .

He turns the basket upside down, letting a single mushroom fall out.

NATALIE
Oh, Alexander! I can see one from here!

She snatches the basket and runs off with it. Herzen takes her chair.

HERZEN
What were you and Natalie saying about me? Well, thank you very much, anyway.

OGAREV
What were you and Granovsky arguing about?

HERZEN
The immortality of the soul.

OGAREV
Oh, that.

Nicholas Ketscher, aged forty, a thin, avuncular figure to the younger men, comes from the house carrying, with a slightly ceremonial air, a tray with a coffeepot on a small spirit lamp, and cups. In silence Herzen, Ogarev and Turgenev watch him put the tray on a garden table and pour a cup, which he brings to Herzen. Herzen sips the coffee.

HERZEN
It’s the same.

KETSCHER
What?

HERZEN
It tastes the same.

KETSCHER
So you think the coffee is no better?

HERZEN
No.

The others are now nervous. Ketscher gives a short barking laugh.

KETSCHER
Well, it really is extraordinary, your inability to admit you’re wrong even on such a trifling matter as a cup of coffee.

HERZEN
It’s not me, it’s the coffee.

KETSCHER
No, I mean it’s beyond anything, this wretched vanity of yours.

HERZEN
I didn’t make the coffee, I didn’t make the coffeepot, it’s not my fault that—

KETSCHER
To hell with the coffee! You’re impossible to reason with! It’s over between us. I’m going back to Moscow! (Ketscher leaves.)

OGAREV
Between the coffee and the immortality of the soul, you’ll end up with no friends at all.

Ketscher returns.

KETSCHER
Is that your last word?

Herzen takes another sip of coffee.

HERZEN
I’m sorry.

KETSCHER
Right.

Ketscher leaves again, passing Granovsky entering.

GRANOVSKY (to Ketscher)
How’s the . . . ? (Seeing Ketscher’s face, Granovsky lets the matter drop.) Aksakov’s in the house.

HERZEN
Aksakov? Impossible.

GRANOVSKY (helping himself to coffee)
Just as you like. (He makes a face at the taste of the coffee.) He’s ridden over from some friends of his . . .

HERZEN
Well, why doesn’t he come out? There’s no need for old friends to fall out over . . .

Ketscher returns as though nothing has passed. He pours himself coffee.

KETSCHER
Aksakov’s come. Where is Natalie?

HERZEN
Picking mushrooms.

KETSCHER
Ah . . . good. I must say they were excellent at breakfast. (He sips his coffee while the others watch him, and considers it.) Vile. (He puts the cup down and, in a flurry, he and Herzen are kissing each other’s cheeks and clasping each other, competing in self-blame.)

KETSCHER
By the way, did I tell you, we’re all going to be in the dictionary?

HERZEN
I’m already in the dictionary.

GRANOVSKY
He doesn’t mean the German dictionary, in which you make a singular appearance, Herzen, and only
by accident . . .

KETSCHER
No, I’m talking about a new word altogether.

HERZEN
Excuse me, Granovsky, but I wasn’t an accident, I was the child of an affair of the heart, given my surname for my mother’s German heart. Being half Russian and half German, at heart I’m Polish, of course . . . I often feel quite partitioned, sometimes I wake up screaming in the night that the Emperor of Austria is claiming the rest of me.

GRANOVSKY
That’s not the Emperor of Austria, it’s Mephistopheles, and he is.

Turgenev laughs.

OGAREV
What’s the new word, Ketscher?

KETSCHER
You can whistle for it now. (furiously to Herzen) Why do you feel you have to make off with every conversation like a bag-snatcher?

HERZEN (protesting, to Ogarev)
I don’t, do I, Nick?

GRANOVSKY
Yes, you do.

KETSCHER (to Granovsky)
It’s you as well!

HERZEN
In the first place, I have a right to defend my good name, not to mention my mother’s. In the second place—

OGAREV
Stop him, stop him!

Herzen joins in the laughter against himself.