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The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

The Radetzky March (1932)

by Joseph Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
"The fatherland no longer existed. It was crumbling, it was breaking apart."
By sally tarbox on 2 August 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
I know we're only halfway through the year, but I'm going to say this will be the best book I read in 2018; it's absolutely exquisite writing, up there with Tolstoy.
Set in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian empire (it closes with the outbreak of WW1), this is the story of three generations of the Trotta family, who rise to prominence in the first few pages when one Joseph Trotta has the presence of mind to shield the Emperor from a bullet while in battle. We follow the ennobled Trotta, a stiff, formal military man, unswervingly loyal to the ruler. We have hopes that his softer-hearted son will break the mould...but he takes on the same characteristics, running an inflexible household and putting the fear of God into his own son, who is early on entered into the military.
The novel primarily follows the youngest scion as he experiences various traumas in his life, and seems to be becoming a (relatively) independent-thinking character; and through contact with his world, his father too starts to realise the impending fate of the Empire he has always revered .
And behind it all is the long-lived Emperor Franz Josef, a fixture in the lives of all three Trottas, but who now is a very old man...

Every time I put this down, I was just struck with the ability of the author to so bring to life a world and his characters. Utterly wonderful writing ( )
  starbox | Aug 1, 2018 |
The first thing I did before starting this book was go online and listen to the Vienna Philharmonic playing the Radetzky March. It was exactly the right background music for this turbulent tale of three generations of the Trotta family, part of the failing Austro-Hungarian Empire. Roth’s descriptions of these men and their lives was fascinating, the details exquisite.

The military and its draconian codes of honor were an everyday part of so many lives. Death was a harpy waiting in the wings always. But there was also the genuine devotion and friendship, particularly that exhibited by the servants, Jacques and Onufri, that served as a testimony to how much this society order meant to those who lived within it.

“There were no bears or wolves in the border region. There was just the end of the world!” reflects the District Commissioner on visiting his son, Carl Joseph, at his outpost near the Russian border. It sums up the book in many ways. These people are all witnessing the end of their world, and it is rotting away slowly and painfully, but there are no obvious predators that they can fight off to save it.

The book is about the end of a way of life, but it is also about the end of a family and the uneasy love of a father and son, in fact of several generations of fathers and sons, who do not truly understand one another. It has the heaviness of a Doctor Zhivago, and that same sense of larger world events overwhelming people and sweeping them along until they disappear into the masses of an unfortunate humanity.

”Yes, it even looks as if God doesn’t want to be responsible for the world anymore. It was easier then! Every stone was in its place. The roads of life were properly paved. There were stout roofs on the walls of the houses. Whereas today, District Commissioner, today the stones are lying all over the roads, and in dangerous heaps some of them, and the roofs are full of holes, and the rain falls into the houses, and it is up to the individual what road he walks, and what house he lives in.”

The world has proceeded from one of order and certainty to one of chaos and questions, and few of those who have position in this society know how to deal with what they are facing. Even the young are bemused and frightened.

I admit to knowing very little of life before World War I in the Austrian Empire. I have always wondered why the assassination of one member of the royal family sparked so much carnage and bloodshed. This book has helped me to see all the pieces of the puzzle and that the assassination itself was just a match set to a fuse that was ready and waiting.

This is a brilliant piece of writing, and while it starts a bit slow, if you slow your mind down to match its pace, it is a worthy endeavor. I can see why it is regarded as a modern classic--it is going to outlast some of its more popular contemporaries.
( )
2 vote phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
The Radetzky March is listed in 1001 Books so I pounced when I saw it at the library!

This is why the editors included it:

"The Radetzky March ranks as one of the finest European historical novels of the twentieth century and is the outstanding literary work produced by the prolific journalist and novelist Joseph Roth."

Through three generations of the Trotta family, the story traces the decline of the Hapsburg Empire in its dying days, but this is not a family saga. From the hero of the battle of Solferino who saves the Emperor Franz Joseph’s life and is subsequently ennobled from plain Lieutenant Trotta to Baron von Trotta and Sipolje; to his son Herr Van Trotta who becomes the District Commissioner; to his grandson Carl-Joseph who has an indifferent peacetime career in the army, the book focusses just on these three men who are all, effectively, bachelors, and how they represent the fracturing of the old certainties of empire.

Strauss’ Radetzsky March is a motif throughout the book. Throughout his rigid loveless childhood when he is steam-rollered into the military career denied to his father, Carl-Joseph hears the local bandmaster play this march and he associates it with tradition, order, duty and belonging.

But as the first Baron rightly surmised, these values are under stress...

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/07/04/the-radetzky-march-by-joseph-roth-translated-by-michael-hofman-bookreview/ ( )
2 vote anzlitlovers | Jul 3, 2018 |
The story of three generations of men in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. ( )
  maryreinert | Mar 27, 2018 |
A book filled with melancholy not only for the characters but the world in which they live, The Radetzky March is a carefully constructed memorial to a lost age. Roth depicts three male generations of loyal subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War I, focussing on the last, young Carl Joseph. Along the way, we get a picture of an empire in decline, of traditions slowly tottering, and of a society entirely unaware of the cracks appearing around them.

Time and again while reading this, I was reminded of The Bridge on the Drina. Both novels chronicle the history of empires and both end with WW1. But whereas Drina remains fixed on one locus in space, March roves far more widely. The writing has similarities, too. Both depict solid characters who fail in their attempts to stand against the tides of time, and both are written in prose which is very carefully constructed.

Again, like Drina, March is not always a page-turner, but it is an important read nonetheless. We receive insight into the remarkable folly of us all to believe that the societies we have constructed are somehow superior to those who have gone before and will remain impregnable. In Drina, Andrić shows masterfully that, for all our pride, a collection of stone as simple as a bridge can outlast us all. In March, Roth shows us that, with a few small holes rendered by equally small pieces of ammunition, the whole house of cards can come tumbling down.

It’s a sad novel, not least because Carl Joseph is a melancholy individual whose life seems meaningless and something out of his control all the way to the very end of the book. The writing too is shot through with pathos, and it’s this that gives the whole the air of an afternoon of incessant drizzle despite the best finery one of Europe’s greatest empires can muster. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Oct 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (123 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Josephprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brodersen, KarlMedarb.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Charles, KentTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cortesia, SaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunlop, GeoffreyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dyer, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foà, LucianoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fučíková, JitkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hofmann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manacorda, GiorgioIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neugroschel, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salter, GeorgCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Terreni, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tucker, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wielek-Berg, W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkler, JohanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkler-Vonk, AnnieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Trottas were not an old family.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Translated by Geoffrey Dunlop and published by William Heinemann London in 1934. under the title 'Radetzky March'.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679451005, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 19th century Austria, a peasant is ennobled for saving the emperor's life. His son further elevates the family's name by becoming a civil servant, but the grandson brings it back to square one with gambling and debauchery. A new translation of a classic.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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