The Empire of Joseph Roth

The Radetzky March

by Joseph Roth, translated by Eva Tucker, translated by Geoffrey Dunlop
Tusk/Overlook, 319 pp., $9.95 (paper)

Hotel Savoy, including 'Fallmerayer the Stationmaster' and 'The Bust of the Emperor'

by Joseph Roth, translated by John Hoare
Tusk/Overlook, 183 pp., $8.95 (paper)

'The Spider's Web' and 'Zipper and his Father'

by Joseph Roth, translated by John Hoare
Overlook Press, 245 pp., $9.95 (paper)

The Emperor's Tomb

by Joseph Roth, translated by John Hoare
Tusk/Overlook, 157 pp., $9.95 (paper)

Flight Without End

by Joseph Roth, translated by David LeVay
Tusk/Overlook, 144 pp., $8.95 (paper)

The Silent Prophet

by Joseph Roth, translated by David Le Vay
Tusk/Overlook, 220 pp., $9.95 (paper)

'The Legend of the Holy Drinker' and 'Right and Left'

by Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hofmann
Overlook Press


Published During His Lifetime

Hotel Savoy (1924)

Die Rebellion (1924)

Die Flucht Ohne Ende (1927)

Zipper und sein Vater (1928)

Rechts und Links (1929)

Der stumme Prophet (1929)

(fragment in Die Neue Rundschau)

Hiob (1930)

Radetzkymarsch (1932)

Stationschef Fallmerayer (1933)

Tarabas, ein Gast aud dieser Erde (1934)

Le Triomphe de la beauté (1937)

Le Buste de l’Empereur (1934)

(German publication 1964)

Das falsche Gewicht (1937)

Die Kapuzinergruft (1938)

Die Geschichte von der 1002 Nacht (1939)

Published Posthumously

Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker (1939)

Der Leviathan (1940)

Der stumme Prophet (1966)

Das Spinnennetz (1967)

Die Büste des Kaisers (1969)


Strangely, while I have been writing about Joseph Roth, the wheel of Karma—or historical consequence?—has brought Roth’s territory back to a reenactment of the situation central to his work. In Roth’s novels—and supremely through the lives of the Von Trotta family in his masterpieces, “The Radetzky March” (1932) and its sequel “The Emperor’s Tomb” (1934)—we see the deterioration of a society, an empire, in which disparate nationalities have been forced into political unity by an overriding authority and its symbol: the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the personality of Emperor Franz Josef. There the rise of socialism and fascism against royalism led to Sarajevo and the First World War. After World War II the groups that had won autonomy were forced together again, if in a slightly different conglomerate, by another all-powerful authority and its symbol: the Communist bloc and the personality of Joseph Stalin. Now restlessness and rebellion, this time against the socialism that has not proved to be liberation, brings once again the breakup of a hegemony. Passages in Roth’s work, about the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, could with scarcely a change describe what has happened in Yugoslavia in 1991.

Roth: he looks out from a book-jacket photograph. Just the face in a small frame; it is as if someone held up a death mask. The ovals of the eyes are black holes. The chin pressed up against the black shadow of a mustache hides stoically the secrets of the lips. A whole life, in bronze, seems there. And there’s another image in that face: the huge sightless eyes with their thick upper and lower lids dominating the width of the face have the mysteriously ancient gaze of a fetus, condemned to suffer the world.

Je travaille, mon roman sera bon, je crois, plus parfait que ma vie,” Roth wrote.1 Prefaces to some translations of his books give the same few penny-life facts: born in 1894 in Galicia, served in the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War, worked as a journalist in Vienna, Berlin, and Prague, left for France in 1933, wrote fifteen novels and novellas mainly while taking part in the émigré opposition to the Nazis, died an alcoholic in Paris in 1939. I failed to find a full biography in English.2 After having reread all Roth’s fiction available to me, I am glad that, instead, I know him in the only…

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