A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

by

Amor Towles

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Bread Symbol Icon

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.

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Bread Symbol Timeline in A Gentleman in Moscow

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
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
...to come to his office. Shalamov pointed to a passage in which Chekhov praises the bread in Berlin, and said that Russians who hadn’t traveled didn’t know how good bread could... (full context)
Book 3, Antics, Antitheses, an Accident
Change and Adaptation Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
Andrey suggests that Mishka and the Count catch up in Emile’s office. Emile places bread and salt on the table (an old Russian symbol of hospitality) and gives the pair... (full context)
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
...commits to its ruses, because the van is filled with two hundred fresh loaves of bread. As the van drives back to the hotel, the Count tries to recognize the various... (full context)
Book 4, 1953, Apostles and Apostates
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
...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)
Friendship, Family, and Love Theme Icon
Bolshevism and Class Struggle Theme Icon
...to what Chekhov wrote, the Russians know better than anyone how good a piece of bread can be. (full context)