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Joseph Roth (September 2, 1894 in Brody - May 27, 1939 in Paris) was an Austrian Jewish novelist who converted to Catholicism and is best known for his family saga The Radetzky March (1932), and for his novel of Jewish life Job (1930).
The First World War, during which Roth fought in the Austro-Hungarian army, had a major influence on Roth's life, as well as the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Roth gave up his university course, which he had begun in Vienna, when he volunteered to serve in the Austrian army in 1916, and thereafter felt he felt a pronounced sense of 'homelessness'. In 1920 he moved to Berlin and worked there as a highly successful journalist for the Neue Berliner Zeitung, then from 1921 for the Berliner Börsen-Courier. Later he became a features correspondant for the well-known liberal Frankfurter Zeitung, travelling widely throughout Europe. In 1925 he spent influential period working in France, and never resided permanently in Berlin again. In 1933 Germany. In the late 1920s his wife Friederike had become schizophrenic, and this threw Roth into a deep crisis both emotionally and financially.
In 1923 Roth's first novel, The Spider's Web, was serialized in an Austrian newspaper, and he achieved moderate success as a writer through the 1920s with a series of novels documenting life in post-War Europe. It was not until the publication of Job and The Radetzky March that he achieved real acclaim as a novelist.
From 1930 Roth's fiction became less concerned with contemporary society, with which he had become increasingly disillusioned , and frequently evokes, with melancholy nostalgia, life in imperial Central Europe prior to 1914. He often protrays the fate of homeless wanderers looking for a place to live, in particular Jews and former citizens of the old Austria, who have lost their only possible home along with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In his later works in particular, Roth seems to wish that the monarchy could be restored in all its old glamour, even though at the start of his career he wrote under the codename of "Red Joseph". His longing for a more tolerant past may be partly explained as a reaction against the nationalism of the time which finally culminated in National Socialism.
The novel The Radetzky March (1932) and the story Die Buste des Kaisers (The Bust of the Emperor) (1935) are typical of this late phase. In the novel The Emperor's Tomb Roth describes the fate, up until Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938, of a cousin of the hero of The Radetzky March. Of his works which deal with Judaism, the novel "Job" is the best-known.
On Hitler's rise to power in 1933 Roth, as a prominent liberal Jewish journalist, was forced to leave Germany, and spent most of the next decade in Paris, a city he loved. Without wanting to deny his Jewish origins, Roth considered his relationship to Catholicism very important, and in the final years of his life, he may even have converted. Despite suffering from chronic alcoholism and becoming increasingly eccentric politically, Roth remained prolific until his premature death in Paris in 1939. His final novella, The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1939), is amongst his finest, and chronicles the attempts made by an alcoholic vagrant to regain his dignity and honour a debt. Roth is buried in Thiais cemetery to the south of Paris.
- Das Spinnennetz (The Spider's Web) (1923)
- Hotel Savoy (1924)
- Die Rebellion (The Rebellion) (1924)
- April: Die Geschichte einer Liebe () (1925)
- Der blinde Spiegel (The Blind Mirror ) (1925)
- Juden auf Wanderschaft (The Wandering Jews ) (1927)
- Die Flucht ohne Ende (The Flight without End ) (1927)
- Zipper und sein Vater (Zipper and His Father ) (1928)
- Rechts und Links (Right and Left ) (1929)
- Der stumme Prophet (The Silent Prophet ) (1929)
- Hiob (Job) (1930)
- Radetkymarsch (The Radetzky March ) (1932)
- Tarabas (1934)
- Beichte eines Mörders (Confession of a Murderer ) (1936)
- Das falsche Gewicht (Weights and Measures) (1937)
- Die Kapuzinergruft (The Emperor's Tomb ) (1938)
- Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker (The Legend of the Holy Drinker )(1939)
- Die Geschichte von der 1002. Nacht (The String of Pearls )
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