Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Joseph Roth
Joeph Roth 1926
Until her end the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was a jumble of ethnic groups that diverged in step with awakening nationalism. The presumed supremacy of the German-speaking class accelerated the progress under the eyes of Emperor and King Franz Joseph who was too conservative to make the necessary reforms. The final decades of his reign brought forth a couple of important writers in German language, among them Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel and Stefan Zweig. Another one of the great literary men of perishing Austria-Hungary was Joseph Roth. 

Born into a Jewish family of merchants in Brody near Lemberg in Eastern Galicia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, today in the Ukraine) in September 1894, Moses Joseph Roth attended a local high-school and then studied Philosophy, German Language and Literature at the universities of Lemberg and Vienna until World War I broke out in July 1914. As from 1916 he served in the Austro-Hungarian army, mainly in the news service. During this time he also wrote articles for different newspaper in Vienna and Prague. 

After the war Joseph Roth continued working as a journalist in Vienna and in Berlin, but devoted himself to literary work in his spare time. Although he had published several novels from 1915 on – among them well-known works like The Spider's Web (Das Spinnennetz - 1923) and Hotel Savoy (1924) – his breakthrough as a novelist didn’t come before October 1930 when Job: The Story of a Simple Man (Hiob. Roman eines einfachen Mannes) was released. Two years later Joseph Roth brought out the novel Radetzky March (Radetzkymarsch) that made his eternal fame as a writer. 

The early 1930s saw the rise of National-Socialism in Germany as well as in Austria. Like many other important Austrians of his time he was faced with growing anti-Semitism around him and he decided to go into exile as early as in 1933 when Adolf Hitler took over power in Germany. Joseph Roth moved to Paris, but was too restless to stay there for more than a couple of months in a run. Private problems and disappointment about the political situation drove Joseph Roth further into alcoholism. He kept on writing, however. His novels were brought out by Dutch publishing houses. 

The writer lived to see the German annexion of Austria in 1938 that ends his sequel of Radetzky March (Radetzkymarsch) titled The Emperor's Tomb (Kapuzinergruft). Later the same year Hitler’s troops also occupied the Sudetenland, but Joseph Roth was spared to witness the invasion into Poland, the beginning of World War II and the holocaust that followed. Joseph Roth died in Paris, France, in May 1939. His novels The Legend of the Holy Drinker (Die Legende vom Heiligen Trinker) and The Leviathan (Der Leviathan) were published posthumously in 1939 and 1940 respectively.

For more information about Joseph Roth and his time I recommend either of these books:

1 comment:

  1. Giuseppe Paolo Mazzarello26 December 2017 at 23:34

    In “The Emperor’s Tomb”, Franz Ferdinand is attached to his mom and to his wife: it is another sort of dual monarchy. Austria Hungary fell under the war’s shots, not through a revolution. Carl II, the last Emperor, died poor and was made Saint. It was definitely too late for Dual Monarchy.


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