In Russian culture, bread is an old symbol for hospitality. In the novel, however, bread takes on a larger symbolism, representing Russian tradition itself. Bread becomes particularly symbolic of the humbler traditions of the peasants that the Bolsheviks feel they have to destroy simply because they are traditions. For while the Bolsheviks attempt to eradicate the nobility, they also tear down churches and rigidly pursue agricultural technologies that cause widespread famine (including a lack of bread) in Russia. Therefore, when Mishka’s editor, Shalamov, asks him to censor lines that Chekhov writes about German bread because he feels the lines are too anti-Russian, Mishka actually views this action as a threat to Russian artistic freedoms and the Russian canon. Mishka’s final project then becomes a compilation of lines about bread from famous works of literature (mostly works of Russian literature), and so bread again represents traditions that Mishka feels are worth preserving.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Bread appears in A Gentleman in Moscow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 3, Ascending, Alighting
Book 3, Antics, Antitheses, an Accident
Book 4, 1953, Apostles and Apostates
...compilation of quotes from seminal texts arranged in chronological order, all of which relate to bread in some way. It begins with the Bible and moves through Shakespeare, Milton, Gogol, Turgenev,... (full context)