Thursday, February 02, 2012

Celebrating Joseph Roth

In his review for the new biography, Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters, Adam Kirsch writes for Tablet Magazine, “The rediscovery of Joseph Roth has been one of the happiest literary developments of the last 10 years—perhaps the first time that the word ‘happy’ could be used in the same sentence as Roth’s name. Roth, born in the town of Brody in Austrian Galicia in 1894, was one of the best-known journalists in 1920s Germany, a master of the impressionistic personal essay known as the feuilleton. With the 1932 publication of The Radetzky March, his novel about the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he joined the first rank of fiction writers as well.”

We couldn’t agree more with Kirsch’s high regard for Roth’s work. Between the new biography out from Norton and the anniversary of the first publication by Overlook of Roth’s seminal Radetzky March looming large next month, we’ve been swept up in the excitement of the recent Roth renaissance, which has brought his name and writing to the pages of the New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Wall Street Journal.

Although the epic saga of the von Trotta family told in The Radetzky March is probably Roth’s best known work of fiction, (Harold Bloom called it, “one of the most readable, poignant, and superb novels in twentieth century German,”) Roth is the author of more than fifteen other novels and novellas including such modern classics as Tarabas, Job, and Confession of a Murderer. With countless comparisons made to some of Europe’s greatest storytellers including Kafka, Kundera, Musil, and Mann, if you haven’t already picked up a copy of one of Roth’s tragic masterpieces, you’re missing out on “one of the great writers of German of this century” (The London Times). Radetzky March is a superb introduction for the novice Roth reader, but if you’re looking to continue your journey through his dark lyrical universe, we suggest you try one of the following Roth paperbacks published by Overlook:


A powerful fable set in the early days of the Russian Revolution, Tarabas is the story of a Russian peasant who learns in his youth from a gypsy that it is his destiny to be both a murderer and saint. It is Roth's special gift that, in Tarabas's fulfilling of his tragic destiny, the larger movements of history find their perfect expression in the fate of one man.


Mendel Singer, an ordinary man, emigrates from Russia to New York, only to experience a series of devastating misfortunes. When circumstances precipitate the loss of his faith in God, something comes along to restore his faith, a miracle that will have the reader rejoicing along with Mendel Singer.

Confession of a Murderer

Vivid and compelling, Confession of a Murderer details the interior life of a man consumed by jealousy and hatred. In a Russian restaurant on Paris's Left Bank, Russian exile Golubchik alternately fascinates and horrifies a rapt audience with a wild story of collaboration, deception, and murder in the days leading up to the Russian Revolution.

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