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The Emperor's Tomb (Works of Joseph Roth) Paperback – September 1, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Roth's swift style makes things happen naturally. We see, hear, smell, and believe. A spell is cost by this cousin to Kafka and Milan Kundera." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Works of Joseph Roth
  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press (September 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585673277
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585673278
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,663,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although this novel is not a real sequel to The Radetzky March, it takes place within the confines of the same period, the wasteful and waning days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But it goes a step further and brings us to the sad, purposeless, lost days following the end of the empire, where all that remains as a symbol of past glory is Franz Joseph's tomb, outside of which stands a lackluster guard who, in effect, is guarding a memory that is fading away. And from these vacant days emerges an evil, the Third Reich, almost as a consequence of the indifference that the narrator, Trotta, exhibits. Trotta, like the empire, loses everything in the end: his friends, his mother, his wife, his son, and his country. He is the ultimate alienated modern man in search of meaning. He longs for the certainty of the past and cannot change or adapt to the present. And he is utterly lost in the face of overwhelming evil.
All of this is presented in exquisite prose and imagery that captures delicate emotional nuances and historical events. Joseph Roth accomplishes more in just a few pages than most writers do in a hundred. He was a great artist, a literary giant, whose genius I hope will be fully recognized in the coming years.
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Format: Paperback
Roth's novel of Austria-Hungary in the years before the first world war, The Radetzsky March, is one of the best novels I've read recently. Though billed as a sequel to The Radetzky March, this novel is considerably different with only a handful of minor characters that overlap the two stories. It has its pleasures but they are of a different nature.
Certain differences leap out right away. First, this "novel" is considerably shorter than The Radetzky March. Second, this novel is written in the first person, from the point of view of Franz Ferdinand von Trotta. Third, the language is considerably more colloquial than the more formal structure Roth used in the previous novel. Everything contributes to what feels like a more casual experience than The Radetzky March.
Still, Roth has a lot to say about the experience of pre- and post-Great War Austrians. Von Trotta, the narrator of the story, is a pretentious young man hanging out in the coffee shops of Vienna completely unprepared for the experience of war he will soon face. He sees little fighting, however, as he is captured early and spends the bulk of the war as a prisoner in Russia. Returning to his wife (with whom he never consummated his marriage) and mother, he finds a world he no longer understands through which he must find his way.
I am always fascinated how so many things we only consider "modern" problems crop up in these old stories. The intriguing lesbianism Trotta's wife engages in during his absence is one example. The vanity and conning of Trotta's elderly mother is another. It amazes me how we can read a novel like this and see how little human nature changes over the decades.
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Format: Paperback
Spanning the First World War, this short novel outlines the fall from grace of a minor Austro-Hungarian Noble, a scion of a once proud and heroic family.
It is quite a bleak book in many ways - and reminds me of the world Beckett creates in Waiting for Godot. There is an inevitability in the fall and no action could have prevented it.
The language used (at least in this translation) is minimal and strips to the bone images - making those that remain quite haunting. One which has remained with me for several days is the image of violets blooming from the bones of dead men.
Certainly a great, if troubling, book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joseph Roth's evocation of the demise of the centuries-long Habsburg domain in central Europe is heartrending. Many will not have the knowledge or associations fully to appreciate this brilliant short novel. Many criticisms can be offered about Habsburg rule, but the chief fault of the Habsburgs was not their fault, really. They failed to understand the overwhelming rise of ethnic nationalism which would engulf their domains no matter what they did or failed to do. There was truly no solution to their dilemma. Those who remained loyal to the Habsburgs despite ethnic pressures have been proven right by the disastrous history of the ex-Habsburg lands when they fell to various nationalists and scoundrels. It is also poignant that it was the Jews of Austria-Hungary who retained their loyalty to the monarchy the longest. for they would suffer the most from its demise. Thanks to nationalism, xenophobia, Woodrow Wilson and Georges Clemenceau and Lloyd George Europe in 1919 was destroyed. The Habsburgs represented the real and good Europe. Hitler, a subject of the Habsburgs who hated them, represented the future bad Europe.
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The prevailing view among critics is that while “The Radetzky March” is a masterpiece, its sequel, “The Emperor’s Tomb” is a defective and comparatively minor work. Certainly the latter book is shorter, sketchier and less cogent. It was Joseph Roth’s last, written seven years after “The Radetzky March”, shortly before his death in 1939.

Roth had promised his publisher a much longer work. It was a promise he was unable to fulfill. He was, by that time, in poor health, in debt, and an alcoholic. It is hardly a wonder then that “The Emperor’s Tomb” feels rather fragmentary, a fine story but one filled with odd holes and unexpected gaps.

Yet curiously, what ordinarily would be flaws seem to add a distinctive tone. Even at this late stage Roth’s talent remained extraordinary; less somehow turned into more. And even as there are melancholy and intensely sad moments in the work, it contains an equal amount of rich color and sparkling humor.

The disappearance of the Austro-Hungarian empire which meant so much to Roth, the resulting decline of the aristocratic Trottas, the central figures in both books, and his own deterioration, all meld together.

The story, in life as in fiction, was not a happy one. This is far from a perfect book. But Roth’s singular style and inimitable gift as a chronicler of the age gave it life and made it both moving and memorable.

A small irritation requires noting. The publisher has added a windy “Translator’s Introduction” at the beginning of the book. It is best read after the book is finished, or not at all.
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