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The Radetzky March (Everyman's Library) Hardcover – October 1, 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Joseph Roth's 1932 novel, The Radetzky March, starts with an accident that creates a dynasty. When an infantry lieutenant steps in front of a bullet intended for the young Franz Joseph, the Austro-Hungarian emperor rewards him with wealth, promotion, and a knighthood. Almost overnight, Joseph Trotta is "severed" from his ancestors, and his family is transformed from unremarkable soldiers and peasants living in the outer reaches of the empire to barons and high-ranking officials living near the imperial palace. As long as Franz Joseph is the Kaiser, their status is secure. But when Trotta happens upon a schoolbook account of the event that exaggerates his heroism, he is shaken:
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.


“One of the most readable, poignant, and superb novels in twentieth-century German: it stands with the best of Thomas Mann, Alfred Döblin, and Robert Musil. Roth was a cultural monument of Galician Jewry: ironic, compassionate, perfectly pitched to his catastrophic era.”

“A masterpiece . . . The totality of Joseph Roth's work is no less than a tragédie humaine
Achieved in the techniques of modern fiction.”

“Epic . . . brilliantly achieved . . . the portrait of an empty age, an age of gold braid and glitter.”

“It is hard to praise this novel sufficiently . . . [It] is exceptional for . . . the tolerance and pity and humorous magnanimity with which the author regards his characters.”

With a new introduction by Alan Bance

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; Second printing edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679451005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679451006
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Every Sunday the strains of the Radetsky March are heard outside the residence of Baron von Trotta, son of the lieutenant who saved Emperor Franz Joseph's life at Solferino and father of Lieutenant Carl Joseph who saves the Emperor's portrait from a whorehouse. (Thus have times changed!) As this book narrates the saga of four generations of the von Trotta family and the parallel decline of Franz Joseph's Austro-Hungarian Empire, the strains of this march dwindle until it, too, is finally obliterated.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
a truly great book. often compared to his countryman and rough contemporary robert musil, roth in radetzky march at least more closely approaches tolstoy in his combination of historic sweep and close observation. sad, funny, sweet and tart with irony, roth conjures up the dwindling years of the hapsburgs with uncanny accuracy and deep sympathy. as you read, you watch a world die, first slowly, through administrative incompetence and intellectual ennui, then through catastrophic loss in war. a wonder of literature. god knows, there are few enough of them. read it. and read the rest of roth -- particularly "the emporer's tomb," a sort of sequel to this novel.
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Format: Paperback
This is a truly great novel about disillusionment and loss set during the decline and death of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This story of one Austro-Hungarian noble family from 1859 to 1916 is a richly textured, nostalgic look back at the lost world of the Habsburg Empire. It is a 20th-century masterpiece with a foundation in the 19th century. Though little-known to Americans, Joseph Roth has long been accorded a place in the literary Pantheon in central Europe. His work has even achieved that dubiously honorific status of being read in German high schools. "The Radetzky March" is generally considered to be his masterpiece; however, I would also encourage readers to explore his other books.

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.
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