Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Voyage

The Coast of Utopia: Part I

by Tom Stoppard

“Exhilarating! Voyage pulses with the dizzying, arrogance and anxiety of a new generation moving as fast as it can. Bring on the next chapter please. I can’t wait to watch these young idealists grow up.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 128
  • Publication Date August 20, 2003
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4004-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9529-6
  • 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.”

Beginning in 1833, Voyage takes up the story of future anarchist Michael Bakunin when his stage was still Premukhino, the Bakunin family estate, and Moscow under the repressive rule of Tsar Nicolas I, and when Michael and his four sisters, like many upper-class Russians of their generation, were in the thrall of German idealistic philosophy. Family life, with its passionate ties and conflagrations, all in the cause of exalted love and idealism, is left behind forever when Michael at the age of twenty-six sets sail for Germany. Michael’s newest friend Alexander Herzen, the first self-proclaimed socialist in Russian history, waves him goodbye—the move from pure thought to revolutionary action is on the horizon.

Praise

“Stoppard’s crowning achievement.” —David Cote, Time Out NY

“Exhilarating! Voyage pulses with the dizzying, arrogance and anxiety of a new generation moving as fast as it can. Bring on the next chapter please. I can’t wait to watch these young idealists grow up.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“The triumph of the season!” —Linda Winer, Newsday

“Starts in a genially Chekhovian style, introduces key characters, and gives you a sense of gthe intellectual hurly-burly of an age in which dissident aristocrats or ‘repentant gentry’ were leading the opposition to a serf-owning society and a monstrously oppressive Tsar.” —Benedict Nightingale, The Times (UK)

“Like a tonic combination of Gorki and Checkov.” —Michael Billington, Guardian (UK)

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.” —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 humorous masterpiece into which the spectator 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 unilike 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 élan, 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 1833

Premukhino, the Bakunin estate, a hundred and fifty miles north-west of Moscow.

Interior, verandah, garden. There are places to sit in the garden, and a hammock. One setting is intended to serve for Act One.

Family supper is coming to an end. At the table—Alexander Bakunin (sixty-five) and his wife, Varvara (forty-two); their daughters, Liubov (twenty-two), Varenka (twenty-one), Tatiana (eighteen) and Alexandra (seventeen); Miss Chamberlain, a young English governess; and Baron Renne (thirty-six), a cavalry officer in uniform. Household servants (serfs), notably Semyon, who is senior, attend the table as may be. “English” dialogue is spoken with a Russian accent, except in the case of Miss Chamberlain. The tempo is lively. Alexander Bakunin’s rule is benign despotism, but the family atmosphere is prevailingly democratic.

ALEXANDER
Speaking of which—Liubov, say something in English for the Baron.

LIUBOV
What do you want me to say, Papa?

ALEXANDERAll my daughters have been educated in five languages—call me a liberal if you like, I read Rousseau as a young man, I was there at the storming of the Bastille, not storming it personally but I remember my feelings were decidedly mixed, that’s how liberal I was when I was nineteen. But education for women, yes indeed!—not just piano lessons and Russian grammar pour les filles Bakunin, though mind you, they write better Russian than I do—what a shame there’s nothing worth reading (over his daughters’ protests), apart from . . .

DAUGHTERS
Pushkin!

ALEXANDER
. . . Pushkin. But I tell you, Baron, in choosing my eldest daughter you have chosen the cleverest—

VARVARA
I prefer Kozlov.

ALEXANDER
—brains before beauty, I wish I’d done the same—

DAUGHTERS
Oh shame!—Shame on you, Papa—I hereby protest on behalf of my beautiful sister—Don’t you listen, Liubov—

VARVARA
Quiet when your father is speaking—

MISS CHAMBERLAIN
What did your father say?

LIUBOV
I take it as a compliment, Papa.

VARVARA
So do I.

TATIANA
The Baron doesn’t think so, do you?

RENNE
No! No . . . Liubov is as beautiful as your wife is intelligent.

ALEXANDER
That’s what I said. What a diplomat! Come on, Liubov, my darling, we’re waiting.

LIUBOV
I’m sure the Baron doesn’t want . . .

ALEXANDRA
I can, Papa! (She pops up, standing rigid. In “English”) “How do you do, Baron Renne! I say! charming weather, you do not think!”

She sits just as suddenly, and Tatiana follows suit.

TATIANA (in “English”)
“The quality of mercy is not strained, it dropping like the gentle dew from heaven!”

Tatiana sits. Alexander continues imperturbably.

ALEXANDER
I myself was educated in Italy. My doctorate in philosophy is from the University of Padua.

MISS CHAMBERLAIN
Jolly good effort, Tatiana.

RENNE
Really? Philosophy?

VARVARA
What did she say?

ALEXANDER
My dissertation was on worms.

TATIANA
Shakespeare, Maman.

RENNE
Worms the philosopher?

ALEXANDER
No, just worms.

VARVARA
I mean Miss Chamberlain, qu’est-ce qu’ele a dit? [What did she say?]

RENNE
Ah, the philosophy of worms.

VARENKA
EllElle l’a félicitée, Maman, c’est tout. [Good effort, Maman, that’s all.]

ALEXANDER
Not at all. Worms have no philosophy, as far as is known.

VARVARA
How can you teach them anything if you can’t talk to them?

ALEXANDER
Exactly.

MISS CHAMBERLAIN
I’m so sorry, what did your mother say?

ALEXANDRA (in “English”)
“No lessons tomorrow, she said, holiday.”

MISS CHAMBERLAIN
I think not, see me afterwards.

ALEXANDER
That’s enough English for now. Anyway, a wife who knows English is not the first consideration for an officer in the Cavalry, otherwise you’d be better off with the governess—No, I only have one serious objection to this marriage, my dear Baron—

DAUGHTERS
Oh, no!—What’s he going to say next?!—Don’t you listen, Liubov!—Father, don’t—!

VARVARA (raps the table)
Enough!

ALEXANDER
Thank you. What was I saying? Oh, well, it’s gone.

RENEE
Actually, I have to be going myself while there’s still light in the sky, if you forgive me, it’s a good ride back to camp—

VARVARA
Yes, you must, it wouldn’t do to break your neck before the happy day, or after, of course.

Noises of arrival and greeting are heard.

ALEXANDER
What’s going on?

RENNE
A thousand thanks—(for Liubov, gallantly)—a thousand and one—

VARENKA
Someone’s come.

SEMYON (entering)
It’s Michael, sir, large as life! He’s come home!

Michael Bakunin is nineteen, in uniform. His entry causes an excited and emotional reunion, as “the table” breaks up.

FAMILY
Michael!—Oh my, look at you!—Why didn’t you let us know?—So grown up! Look at his uniform!—Let me kiss you!—You’re not in trouble, are you? I prayed and prayed for you—How long are you staying?—

MICHAEL
No, I’m on leave—I came straight from summer exercises!—

ALEXANDER
It’s my boy, he’s an ensign in the Artillery.

RENNE
Of course—the famous Michael.

LIUBOV (to Renne)
Thank you for your visit, I’m sorry my family is . . .

RENNE
Oh no, you’re all so . . . wonderfully unrussian . . .

MICHAEL
And congratulations are in order, I believe. Do I have the honour . . . ?

LIUBOV
Baron Renne—I present my brother Michael—

RENNE
You have been at the Artillery School in Peter?

ALEXANDRA
For five years!

ALEXANDER (to Miss Chamberlain)
Run and tell Semyon to bring champagne. “Command Semyon to provision—”

MISS CHAMBERLAIN (running out)
Champagne, champagne, I understand—

TATIANA
Our English governess, do you think she’s pretty?

MICHAL
No, I think you’re pretty.

RENNE (tapping his glass)
Ladies and gentlemen! (addressing Michael) The Cavalry drinks to the Artillery. But a family reunion is a sacred affair, and I was just saying good night—regimental duties, who understands better than you? So farewell! I embrace you, and am proud to call you brother!

Applause from the family. Michael and Renne shake hands and embrace.

ALEXANDER
Good! Come along, we’ll give you a proper send-off. Semyon!—Pavel!—one of you—his horse—the Baron is leaving!—

A general exodus begins.

ALEXANDER (cont.) (remembering)
Ah, yes. That was it. I have only one serious doubt about this marriage—

LIUBOV (tearfully)
Father . . .

VARENKA (to Liubov)
It’s a joke.

ALEXANDER
. . . and that is the difference in your ages.

RENNE
But I’m only thirty-six!

ALEXANDER
A good ten years too young for her! The husband should be at least twice the age of the wife.

VARVARA
But you’re not.

ALEXANDER
Not now, of course. (to Renne) Beauty before brains.

ALEXANDRA
Are you coming, Michael?

TATIANA (hanging back)
Yes, he’s coming.

MICHAEL (to Liubov)
Do you want to see him off without everybody . . . ?

LIUBOV (hastily)
No, no, let’s all go.

ALEXANDER
Family on parade! . . . Handkerchiefs for waving and weeping— (to Renne) My wife was eighteen and I was forty-two. See my point?—just when the wife starts getting a mind to kick over the traces, she realises she only has to show a little patience . . .

Michael, Varenka and Tatiana are left alone.

MICHAEL
Well! He won’t do! Liubov doesn’t love him, that’s obvious.

VARENKA
We know that.

TATIANA
She won’t go against Papa, and the Baron is a good match, isn’t he?

Semyon enters with a tray of champagne glasses, and Miss Chamberlain with a bottle. Voices outside: “Tatiana! Michael! And where’s Varenka?”

MICHAEL
Thank you, Semyon. Leave us be.

Semyon leaves deferentially. Miss Chamberlain, unwisely, approaches gushing.

MISS CHAMBERLAIN
So you are Michael.

MICHAEL
“Go away, please.”

Miss Chamberlain gasps. The girls are shocked and admiring. Miss Chamberlain runs out. From outside “Varenka!” is called. Varenka runs out.

MICHAEL (cont.)
I’m speaking of love and you are speaking of matchmaking. Tata, Tata, don’t you know? Dawn has broken! In Germany the sun is already high in the sky! It’s only us in poor behind-the-times Russia who are the last to learn about the great discovery of the age! The life of the Spirit is the only real life: our everyday existence stands between us and our transcendence to the Universal Idea where we become one with the Absolute! Do you see?

TATIANA (desperately)
Tell it to me in German.

MICHAEL
This marriage cannot take place. We must save Liubov. To give oneself without love is a sin against the inner life. The outer world of material existence is mere illusion. I’ll explain it all to Father.

Tatiana and Michael are being called from outside. She launches herself at Michael to embrace him, and runs out.

MICHAEL (cont.)
God, I’m starving!

Michael pauses to stuff his mouth with food from the table, then follows Tatiana.