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The Radetzky March (Works of Joseph Roth) Paperback – August 1, 2002
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He had been driven from the paradise of simple faith in Emperor and Virtue, Truth, and Justice, and, now fettered in silence and endurance, he may have realized that the stability of the world, the power of laws, and the glory of majesties were all based on deviousness.As World War I approaches and the monarchy's limitations become apparent, Trotta's son and grandson become even further removed from this paradise. They continue to follow the codes of honor and duty, though such behavioral guides become pointless, even burdensome, in a world shorn of simple faith in an emperor. Trotta's grandson Carl Joseph finds his military career overwhelmed by bad horsemanship, alcohol dependency, frivolous roulette and baccarat debts, and misguided love affairs--the kinds of flaws, he thinks, that are inevitable without the self-assurance and practical knowledge that he would have gained had he earned (rather than inherited) his position. Not long ago, he thinks wistfully, his family lived as peasants "in dwarfed huts, making their wives fertile by night and their fields by day." It is here that the Trottas' demise is at its most poignant, as the focus of the narrative shifts from the loss of status to the far more devastating loss of purpose.
In both style and temperament, Roth's novel stands between the 19th and 20th centuries, and the three Trottas could be seen as part of a progression that stretches back to Tolstoy's Prince Andrei and looks ahead to the Mathieu of Sartre's Les Chemins de la Liberté trilogy. Although The Radetzky March illustrates why the monarchy was doomed, and isn't blind to the new nations and ideologies on the horizon, Roth is more interested in his characters' psychology than their politics. And their central difficulty--the bewildering meaninglessness that follows the dissolution of an ideal--has been a fundamental 20th-century dilemma. The Trottas are, in Roth's stunning phrase, "homesick for the Kaiser." One need only substitute "the Chairman" or "Marxism" or "God" to understand the novel's lasting resonance. --John Ponyicsanyi --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Roth's masterpiece touches us as he deftly depicts the disillusionment that inevitably replaces the once-elevated code of honor of an outdated Empire. The book's style, that of an omniscient author reminiscent of nineteenth-century aesthetics, complements its subject. Here is a glimpse of a world where military and social rank dictate behavior, where women are seductresses regardless of social pretenses, where servants are endowed with unquestioning loyalty, where Jews live on the fringes of society yet must also subscribe to its rigorous decorum. Yet, as the exploits of the youngest von Trotta illustrate, this world has become decadent in its rigidity.
For the von Trottas, as for the Hapsburgs themselves, this discovery comes at a time when one cannot escape its consequences. For it is the rhythms of the Radetsky March, along with the portrait of the Hero of Solferino (whose heroism is not all that it was made out to be) that shaped even the youngest von Trotta and remain forever in the background, preventing a return to the family's peasant heritage and the romanticism of a more idyllic existence.
Roth's book is well worth the read. It is especially endowed with a gentle irony that bespeaks compassion without indulging in sentimentality. For those of us still trying to understand what formed the Western world of the twentieth century, it abounds with all the poignant music, imagery, and people of pre-World War I conditions in Eastern Europe.
Written in wonderfully deft and gently ironic prose, it chronicles three generations of a peasant family raised to the aristocracy through a heroic act. By choosing such protagonists, Roth is able to successfully contrast the naive, innocent faith in the monarchy of the Trottas against the actual moral and social collapse of AH society.
However, unlike many a novelist, while Roth clearly understands why citizens grew disillusioned with pre-WW I society, he also notes the price paid by those who are disillusioned. Thus, while all the flaws of Viennese society are decried (corruption, anti-Semitism, incompetence), Roth evokes a genuine sympathy for a time when faith in society still existed.
As the 20th century has been a perpetual and--given communism, fascism, nationalism et al.--failed search for some way to reconstruct the myths that held society together (which were destroyed by WW I), Roth's novel is as timely as ever.
Treat yourself to this sad, touching novel which should be far better know than it is. Roth is one novelist who saw and understood.
The Overlook version, however, has a few small flaws. The translation can sometimes be rough, although it is generally very fine. Neugroschel, the translator, leaves some words untranslated and makes some uncharacteristic translation errors. A "Rittmeister" was a captain in the Austro-Hungarian calvary, which few people would know. His soldiers play a card game called "tarot." This is not correct. As most readers know, tarot cards are a fortune-telling device. "Tarok" (with a "k") was the most popular card game among the Austrian elite in the 19th century. The editors also mislabeled the title of the cover photo, leaving out the "Franz" in "Franz Joseph I."
Moreover, the introduction by Nadine Gordimer can be a distraction. Ms. Gordimer may be a Nobel Prize winner, but she is not a scholar of pre-World War I Austria or of Austrian literature. Her introduction is merely one writer's musings on another writer. It might enhance one's understanding if one has never heard of Roth before. For those who do know him, it says nothing new.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Its a historical novel, written by someone who lived during those times. It probably gives one a greater idea of exactly what life was like during the last days of the Hapsburg... Read morePublished 16 days ago by Carl J. Mistlebauer
Rarely do I put a book down after getting 2/3 through it, but this was the exception. The characters were flat and pathetic. Read morePublished 2 months ago by LiveLaughLove
Evocation of a time and place-of the end of a culture; a society-the omen and then crashing entry to the twentieth century of bloody nationalism, war, and genocide. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ira Springer
The novel Radetsky March by Joseph Roth is an intimate depiction of the cultural milieu of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the Battle of Solferino (1859) to the beginning of The... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Stephen Schwartz
Well written and a fast read. Having just traveled to the areas of Eastern Europe where the Hapsburg reigned, it gave me great insight into the end of their dynasty and the start... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Albert Evans
This book and its sequel are classics of Central European historical fiction. I cannot say enough about the work other than to state that it languishes in a shadow of which it... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Curious
This man can write! The subject matter is the end of the Hapsburg Empire, but I was carried along by the richness of the prose. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Joel Marks