Nina Balatka

Anthony Trollope
Nina Balatka

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Title: Nina Balatka

Author: Anthony Trollope
Release Date: September, 2005 [EBook #8897] [This file was first
posted on August 26, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: US-ASCII

E-text prepared by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D.


Anthony Trollope was an established novelist of great renown when
_Nina Balatka_ was published in 1866, twenty years after his first
novel. Except for La Vendee, his third novel, set in France during the
Revolution, all his previous works were set in England or Ireland and
dealt with the upper levels of society: the nobility and the landed gentry
(wealthy or impoverished), and a few well-to-do merchants--people
several strata above the social levels of the characters popularized by
his contemporary Dickens. Most of Trollope's early novels were set in
the countryside or in provincial towns, with occasional forays into
London. The first of his political novels, Can You Forgive Her, dealing
with the Pallisers was published in 1864, two years before Nina. By the
time he began writing Nina, shortly after a tour of Europe, Trollope

was a master at chronicling the habits, foibles, customs, and ways of
life of his chosen subjects.
Nina Balatka is, on the surface, a love story--not an unusual theme for
Trollope. Romance and courtship were woven throughout all his
previous works, often with two, three, or even more pairs of lovers per
novel. Most of his heroes and heroines, after facing numerous hurdles,
often of their own making, were eventually happily united by the
next-to-last chapter. A few were doomed to disappointment (Johnny
Eames never won the heart of Lily Dale through two of the
"Barsetshire" novels), but marital bliss--or at least the prospect of
bliss--was the usual outcome. Even so, the reader of Trollope soon
notices his analytical description of Victorian courtship and marriage.
In the circles of Trollope's characters, only the wealthy could afford to
marry for love; those without wealth had to marry for money,
sometimes with disastrous consequences. By the time of Nina,
Trollope's best exploration of this subject was the marriage between
Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora M'Cluskie, the former a cold
fish and the latter a hot-blooded heiress in love with a penniless
scoundrel (Can You Forgive Her? 1865). Yet to come was the
disastrous marriage of intelligent Lady Laura Standish to the wealthy
but old-maidish Robert Kennedy in _Phineas Finn_ and its sequel.
But Nina Balatka is different from Trollope's previous novels in four
respects. First, Trollope was accustomed to include in his novels his
own witty editorial comments about various subjects, often paragraphs
or even several pages long. No such comments are found in Nina.
Second, the story is set in Prague instead of the British isles. Third, the
hero and heroine are already in love and engaged to one another at the
opening; we are not told any details about their falling in love. The hero,
Anton Trendellsohn is a successful businessman in his mid-
thirties--not the typical Trollopian hero in his early twenties, still
finding himself, and besotted with love. Anton is rather cold as lovers
go, seldom whispering words of endearment to Nina. But it is the
fourth difference which really sets this novel apart and makes it both a
masterpiece and an enigma. That fourth--and most
important--difference is clearly stated in the remarkable opening

sentence of the novel:
Nina Balatka was a maiden of Prague, born of Christian parents, and
herself a Christian--but she loved a Jew; and this is her story.
Marriage--even worse, love--between a Christian and a Jew would
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