78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AUSTRIA IN DECLINE
Perhaps Joseph Roth is not the most widely known name in the literary world however his masterpiece, The Radetzky March, still commands an important place in 20th century German literature. The book was written during the early 1930's and it achieved widespread acclaim until it was supressed by the Nazis along with so many other works by Jewish writers, artists and so...
Published on 10 Sep 1999
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was disappointed...
I had looked forward to reading one of the '1001 books you must read before you die' and a work published in the Everymans Library hardback series. I was disappointed in what I experienced - a rather drawn out narrative starting with the battle of Solferino at which a young Trotta saves the life of the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire and ending with the death, in...
Published 18 months ago by William Jordan
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78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AUSTRIA IN DECLINE,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Everyman's Library Classics) (Hardcover)Perhaps Joseph Roth is not the most widely known name in the literary world however his masterpiece, The Radetzky March, still commands an important place in 20th century German literature. The book was written during the early 1930's and it achieved widespread acclaim until it was supressed by the Nazis along with so many other works by Jewish writers, artists and so forth. The book charts the history of the Trotta family through three generations from 1859-1916. The decadence and impending collapse of the Austrian Empire are described in beautifully crafted and vivid language. A dark mood pervades the story - it is rather like watching a great river flow placidly towards an inevitable water fall. The characterisation is excellent and Roth contrives to draw out every possible detail as the book moves inexorably from scene to scene.
The novel can be appreciated as great literature and also as a valuable historical document. The Radetzky March is an important commentary on the fall of the Austrian Empire and how the legacy of those times still effects the mores Austrian society today.
This is a sound translation from German into English although some words could have been left alone eg ' Yessir for Jawohl '. This edition deserves to bring the Radetzky March to a much wider audience and can be thoroughly recommended.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary treasure.,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Hardcover)This is a masterpiece to be savored, celebrated, and shared. Straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, The Radetzky March uniquely combines the color, pomp, pageantry, and military maneuvering of the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the more modern political and psychological insights of the twentieth century, giving this short book a panoramic geographical and historical scope with fully rounded characters with whom the reader can empathize.
Atmospheric effects are so rich and details are so carefully selected that you can hear the clopping of hooves, rattling of carriage wheels, clang of sabers, and percussion of rifles. Parallels between the actions of man and actions of Nature, along with seasonal cycles, bird imagery, and farm activity, permeate the book, grounding it and connecting the author's view of empire to the reality of the land. Loyalty, patriotism, and family honor are guiding principles here, even when these values impel the characters to extreme and sometimes senseless actions, as seen in a duel.
Significantly, there are no birth scenes here, only extremely touching scenes of aging and death, adding further poignancy to the decline and fall of the empire itself. And just as Trotta, in the end, has a little canary brought in to him, commenting that "it will outlive us all," perhaps this novel, too, will someday emerge from its obscurity and live as the classic it deserves to be. Mary Whipple
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully and intelligently written,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)This is the personal story of three generations of fathers and sons against the backdrop of the decline of the Austro-Hungarian empire. I was expecting a harsh, agressive book about honour and death and indeed these themes are key to the story but the style is tender, emotive and full of confused regret.
The fathers and sons in question have a distant, reticent respect for each other but also a deep and unfathomable love. The youngest von Trotta's life unravels into an out of control heap which mirrors the demise of the empire itself. While his father, the older generation 'going on', can only look on sadly impotent.
The clarity of detail and description of the various incidents and events that mark the life of the youngest protagonist are stunningly real. The quality of the writing and the translation is so good that you feel as though you are watching something rather than reading it.
Perhaps I'm making this book sound wafty and nostalgic, it is nostalgic but it's vision is razor sharp. I was moved to tears in one chapter when the Trotta's old servant Jacques becomes ill and dies. It's beautifully and intelligently written. Another book I have to ration because it is such a treat to read writing as good as this.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A singular and brilliant novel,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)There's something wonderful about reading Joseph Roth even before one begins a novel of his. I came across him by chance rather than active effort and he is, of course, still nowhere near as well-known and alluded to as his talent should have already assured. So you get the wonderful sense of discovery, which only adds to the beauty of his prose.
This novel is beautifully lyrical. As a couple of the other reveiwers have mentioned, one feels compelled to say that it is not sentimental, though the texture of it, its tone, sometimes makes it feel as though it almost is.
The most potent scenes, for me, were those which so pointedly expressed a feeling of regret, of disiappontment and failure. We have all felt that stomach-lurching collapse, that sudden and absolute knowledge that we have done something very wrong, that we have ruined something, that something important to us is now over. The Radetzky March is as sad as it is beautiful.
It's also wonderfully funny. The wit verges on the Dostoyevskian in its eccentricity and is brilliantly compelling and balanced. Roth's writing style, amidst a weighty, formal narrative, is so joyfully unusual. The way massive events are meticulously introduced and then torn through at a hurtling pace only to land- ta-da- at the next plot-point is so refreshing, so out of the ordinary.
My favourite comment in the introduction (and surely this translator deserves some sort of award for seemingly introducing the English-speaking world to Roth single-handedly) is his basic summation of many of Roth's protagonists- they are just tired men out of their depth. And this also allows for tragi-comedy: the passages describing Trotta's slump into ninety-proof reliance are brilliant. There is never an occasion not to have a drink in this nowhere border garrison. And he cheerfully drinks the days away, amiable to all he passes, though only he doesn't realise that his step is faltering, his tunic stained, his buttons done up wrong...
I'd recommend anything by this author, to anyone, and this, surely, will eventually gain its rightful standing as a vital must-read for anyone interested in literature.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic of austrian literature,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)Radezky March shows Joseph Roth, one of the most interesting Austrian writers of this century, at his best. His melancholic tale of the lost world that was Austria-Hungary never gets sentimental, nor revisionistic. Roth became a convinced monarchist by the end of his life as a means of resistance against Hitler, but this never clouds his vision. his prose is of singular simplicity in a time that loved the complicated and winded sentences. In Radezky March he surpassed himsself, a book that offers new insights every time it is read again. highly recomended!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last of Empire,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)The collapse of the Austrian Empire at the time of the Great War becomes explicable in this clear-eyed, unsentimentally compassionate family saga which links the Trotta family indissolubly to the last Emperor, Franz Joseph: his life saved by 'the hero of Solferino', his death signalling the last of the Trottas. The novel is both epic and intimate, combining the decline into hollowness of the Habsburg Empire with three generations of one family who desperately wish to serve that empire, but find themselves increasingly out of step with society as it exists. In what appears to me a superb translation by Michael Hofmann, The Radetzky March reminds us of how insular we can be in our assumptions of what constitutes great classic literature.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)Although set in the historic background of the Austrian - Hungary empire, the book is timeless in that it describes the increasing discrepancy between actual, political develoments and the set of values to which an older generation tries to adhere. The same holds for the relationship between a father and a son. Often the prose is wonderful ("living bread" rather than grain) and the subtle way in which the story develops surely must make this one of the most beautiful books ever written. Very moving, very recommendable.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)A lost world, vanished forever in the events of 1914-18. Does Roth regret that? I'm not so sure. His characters seem forever driven by events outside their control, codes of conduct with suicidal consequences, the requirement to live up to illustrious ancestors and honour the family name come what may.
It is the most beautifully written (and translated book) and achingly sad, funny, perceptive, satirical - usually at the same time! Masterful.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Neglected Masterpiece,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)I was pleased to discover via a book group this subtle, gently ironic and nostalgic evocation of the last decades of the decaying Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Slovenian peasant Trotta, who has achieved the rank of lieutenant, becomes the hero of the Battle of Solferino and is ennobled after pushing the young Emperor Franz Josef out of the enemy's line of fire. His son is given an easy path into the role of District Commissioner, which he performs with an unquestioning adherence to routine. He is too uptight to express his love for his son, the hapless Carl Joseph. The realisation of this comes almost too late, triggered by the knowledge that the "this world is ending": his protector the Emperor is near death, and his Empire is destined to fail under its failure to adapt to the pressures for change.
"How simple the world has always appeared...For every situation there was a prescribed attitude. When the boy came home for the holidays, you gave him a test. When he became a lieutenant, you congratulated him. When he wrote his dutiful letters which said so little, you wrote him a couple of measured sentences back. But what did you do when you son was drunk? When he cried `Father'? Or something in him cried 'Father'?"
Trained from early childhood for the military career to which he is ill-suited, the grandson of "The Hero of Solferino" feels the weight of his destiny but proves to be a sensitive, indecisive man who inadvertently brings misfortune to others, although the remote figure of the Emperor can be relied to bale him out of the worst consequences of his actions - until the old man dies and the First World War breaks out.
Although I have never been to Vienna, Roth created for me vivid images of the old city, together with the atmosphere of the military barracks - you can understand only too well why young men were driven to drink, gambling and reckless duels by the endless prospect of waiting for a battle to fight. I particularly liked Roth's description of the landscapes of the eastern borders with Russia, the back of beyond to which Carl Joseph is consigned - the frogs croaking in the swamps, in which willows mark the only safe path, and the closely observed changing colours of the sky. Here at last, Carl Joseph finally regains his peasant roots and feel at ease with himself.
At first I thought I had found an East European Trollope with earnest traces of Middlemarch. Then I saw that Roth was born only 20 years before the First World War, and lived on to see its carnage, the Depression of the 20s and the rise of Hitler. So there is C20 frankness and bleakness to Roth's writing, beautifully translated by Michael Hofman. Roth himself had a tragic life, as a Jew who was forced to leave Germany, married a wife who became a schizophrenic, and who died an impoverished alcoholic in Paris.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spectacular book,
This review is from: The Radetzky March (Paperback)This goes straight on to the list as being one of the best books I have ever read. For a while, as you get into it, you wonder where it could possibly be heading. But by the time you get two thirds of the way through, that no longer matters.
It is a stunning read, written in beautifully concise and sparse language, of the inevitability of the decline of a family which mirrors (or is mirrored by?) the decline of an Empire. The futility of war, the despair of living, the rhythm of peasant life and the turmoil of the growth of nationalism - all is reflected here in the seemingly mundane world of the von Trotta family.
Stunning, spectacular, sad, tragic, and beautiful - I'm off to find some more of Joseph Roth's works - I'm only sorry it's taken me this long to discover his writing.
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The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (Paperback - 1 Nov 2003)
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