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Salvage is the final part of Tom Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast of Utopia. It is 1852. Alexander Herzen, who left Russia five years earlier, has arrived in London in retreat from a series of public and private calamities. Revolution in Europe has hit the rocks. ‘I have lost every illusion dear to me,’ he says. ‘I’m forty. The world will hear no more of me.’ But émigré circles in London (including Karl Marx) are buzzing with plots and intrigues, and Herzen’s money, as well as his sardonic wit, soon have an outlet among them. With the accession of Alexander II, ‘the Reforming Tsar’, Herzen’s revived spirits are boosted by the arrival of his childhood friend Nicholas Ogarev with his wife Natalie. Their journal ‘The Bell’, smuggled into Russia, enters its heyday in the struggle for the emancipation of the serfs. Will it be reform from above or revolution from below? At home the ‘new men’ who once looked on Herzen as their inspiration are in a hurry, and in London he is once more at odds with Michael Bakunin, who has escaped from exile in Siberia. Meanwhile Natalie Ogarev finds in him her romantic ideal, and Herzen’s public and private travails are far from over.
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