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Joseph Roth's March into History

Joseph Roth's March into History: From the Early Novels to Radetzkymarsch and Die Kapuzinergruft

Kati Tonkin
Volume: 25
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 236
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81vxh
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  • Book Info
    Joseph Roth's March into History
    Book Description:

    Joseph Roth was one of the most significant German-language writers of the interwar period, yet few major studies of his work have been published in English. Kati Tonkin's monograph spans Roth's novelistic career, challenging thewidely held assumption tha

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-801-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    K. T.
  4. Note on References and Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Critics have never been able to reconcile Roth’s early writing with his most famous novel, Radetzkymarsch, and its sequel Die Kapuzinergruft. According to the widely accepted periodic-thematic divisions of Roth’s work, the early fiction is grouped under the rubric “socialist” and the later works are interpreted as manifestations of the idealizing nostalgia of an alcoholic monarchist with a decreasing grip on reality.¹ This categorization can be traced back to Roth’s friend Hermann Kesten, who published the first collection of Roth’s works in 1956:

    In den fünfzehn Jahren, da er Bücher veröffentlichte, ward Roth aus einem skeptischen, zuweilen pessimistischen Moralisten ein...

  6. 1: “Hinter dem Zaun”: Identity and Ideology
    (pp. 16-45)

    Since the rediscovery of Roth’s early work, critics have identified two seemingly antithetical points of view in his novels and hence have had to grapple with the problem of how to explain the differences. The most common response has been to point to a deep sense of personal crisis due to which Roth took flight from an increasingly unbearable reality from the late 1920s. Most recently, John Heath has drawn a parallel between Radetzkymarsch, which he reads as “symptomatic of its author’s lamenting the loss of order in postwar confusion” and Roth’s life, which he calls “episodic, a nomadic journey...

  7. 2: “Die Welt ist irrsinnig”: The Early Novels:Das Spinnennetz, Hotel Savoy, Die Rebellion
    (pp. 46-102)

    When Roth returned to Vienna after the war in December 1918, it was to a place in which everything seemed radically altered. Vienna had suffered little physical damage in the war, but in both material and spiritual terms it was a vastly different place from the prewar Imperial capital: “auch ihre Seele schien verworren und krank nach den langen Kriegsjahren und dem chirurgischen Eingriff, der ihr die territorialen Glieder abgeschnitten hatte” (RB, 193). Newspaper headlines sounded an almost constant alarm with reports of strikes, rapid inflation, and coal and food shortages.² At this time Roth was just embarking on what...

  8. 3: “. . . in Wahrheit . . . umgewandelte Realität”: Radetzkymarsch as Historical Novel
    (pp. 103-166)

    1930 is generally held to mark Roth’s final break from a critical engagement with the problems of the present and his turn to an escapist recreation of the lost worlds of the Habsburg Empire and the shtetl. In the same year as he published Hiob and began work on Radetzkymarsch (RB, 392), Roth penned a lengthy critical essay on the relationship between form and content in narrative: “Schluß mit der ‘Neuen Sachlichkeit’!” This essay is a diatribe against the literary movement Neue Sachlichkeit, which Roth considers responsible for the poverty of writing in contemporary German. Roth “rejects the then widely...

  9. 4: “Ein Mann sucht sein Vaterland”?: Die Kapuzinergruft and the Confrontation with History
    (pp. 167-196)

    Not long after completing Radetzkymarsch Roth is reported to have declared: “Der Leutnant Trotta, der bin ich” (RB, 398). This curious statement implies a congruence between Carl Joseph’s fate and that of his creator that is perhaps not immediately apparent. Although Carl Joseph is not Jewish, his family’s progression from Slovene peasants to “Österreicher, Diener und Beamte der Habsburger”² puts him in a comparable position to Roth, the assimilated German-speaking Jew from the empire’s periphery whose maternal grandfather was an Orthodox Jew (RB, 40): each has an assimilated Habsburg identity that is three generations old, and each is estranged from...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 197-202)

    In 1935 Roth published Die Büste des Kaisers, a short novella that has been cited as evidence of the writer’s increasingly desperate “Wirklichkeitsleugnung”¹ in the wake of Hitler’s ascent to power in Germany. It has been described as painting “ein von Trauer überschattetes Bild einer goldenen Vergangenheit”² and as “a tale of unconditional praise for the Habsburg monarchy.”³ The oft-quoted description of the protagonist Count Morstin on the opening page of the novella as “einer der edelsten und reinsten Typen des Österreichers schlechthin, das heißt also: ein übernationaler Mensch und also ein Adeliger echter Art” (5:655) certainly lends itself to...

  11. Selected Works by Joseph Roth
    (pp. 203-204)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 205-216)
  13. Index
    (pp. 217-224)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)