A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

by

Amor Towles

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A Gentleman in Moscow: Book 5, 1954, Applause and Acclaim Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Andrey and Emile are in the kitchen, in disbelief that in six months, on June 21, Sofia will be in Paris. The narrator explains that Russians who had seen Paris prior to the Revolution thought that they would never see it again. The Count enters the kitchen and explains that the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries has arranged it.
Andrey and Emile’s surprise about Sofia’s trip to Paris shows how much society has changed, and how much they have been forced to change with it. They had simply accepted that no Russian would ever be able to leave the country again in their lifetime.
Themes
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
Andrey, Emile, and the Count are wondering whether Paris has changed, when the newest member of their daily meeting, the Bishop, enters. The Bishop edits Emile’s menu, provides seating instructions to Andrey, and determines that the real flower arrangements should be replaced with silk flowers.  The meeting concludes.
The Bishop, as a result of his good standing with the party and rising to the hotel manager position, has also taken control of the Triumvirate’s daily meeting, micromanaging the way they run the restaurant and making them change their traditions.
Themes
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
When the others leave to complete their tasks for the evening, the Count surreptitiously returns to the reservation book to scan for large events. He notes with particular interest a dinner on June 11 for the Presidium and the Council of Ministers. He starts to formulate a plan, as he had resolved to escape the hotel following Katerina’s visit. This resolve turned to action at the news of the Conservatory’s concert tour.
This chapter begins a large scheme that Towles starts to carry out in the narrative. Without explaining exactly how the Count will escape, readers watch as he uses luck, skill, and a series of seemingly unimportant objects to escape and allow Sofia to run away from the Conservatory tour.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Chance, Luck, and Fate Theme Icon
That evening, the Count accepts a flute of champagne from Audrius in the Shalyapin as congratulations for Sofia’s tour. But as he raises his glass, he is interrupted by Viktor Stepanovich. Stepanovich, who is very concerned, tells him that Sofia has declined the invitation to travel with the Conservatory’s orchestra. The Count tells the man that he had no idea she had done so. He worries that she is nervous to play for such large venues, but assures Stepanovich that he will convince her to change her mind.
As a parent, the Count certainly wants to make sure that Sofia has all the opportunities available to her, but he has also already realized that her performing with the Conservatory is crucial to his escape plan, and wants to work to make sure that all of the details can be executed perfectly.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
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One hour later, Sofia and the Count are dining in the Boyarsky. Instead of playing Zut, the Count opts to tell her a story (even though she has already heard it a few times). As a boy, he had an aptitude for marksmanship, and was the favorite to win in the archery competition at school.  He became so nervous leading up to the event that his hands began to shake and his eyes watered. He considered inventing an illness to avoid the competition entirely. But just as he took aim during the competition, he noticed a professor trip and fall into a pile of manure. He became so amused that he released the bow, and his arrow landed in the center target.
The Count continues to exhibit typical qualities of an older parent, like telling a story about an experience at an archery competition in his youth in order to teach Sofia a lesson (and telling a story he has told her several times already). It is also ironic that Towles now reveals how the Count had an aptitude for marksmanship, considering that his good shot at the young officer made him swear off of wielding a weapon ever again.
Themes
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
Chance, Luck, and Fate Theme Icon
The Count tries to expand the moral to imply that Sofia should not feel nervous at the idea of performing, but she stops him and assures him that she is not afraid. She tells him that she simply does not want to go, and that she wants to stay in the hotel with him.
Sofia’s concern shows the Count just how much she has become attached to him and the hotel as her home, but this proves to the Count even more that he must make sure Sofia can also live her own life outside of the hotel.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
The Count then tells another story about the Christmas that he celebrated with Nina in 1922. He tells Sofia about her mother’s argument that if one wished to broaden one’s horizons, one should travel beyond the horizon. He worries that he will do Sofia a disservice by keeping her unintentionally confined to the hotel. He tells her that the most important thing in life is to have the courage to venture out into the world despite the uncertainty of acclaim. She tells him that if she plays in Paris, she would want him to hear her. He assures her that he would hear every chord even if she played on the moon.
In referencing Nina and her opinion on venturing out into the world, the Count hopes to give Sofia the strength to do so as well. The Count tells Sofia stories of her mother particularly when he needs to give her confidence that she has inherited her mother’s strength. Because even though the Count has become Sofia’s whole family, as the Count well knows, stories of one’s biological family can be powerful in reminding a person of their identity.
Themes
Imprisonment, Freedom, and Purpose Theme Icon
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon