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Rebellion: A Novel by Joseph Roth
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Rebellion: A Novel

by Joseph Roth

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1778105,073 (3.89)6
A 1924 German novel on destiny. The hero is a one-legged veteran of World War I, earning his living by playing a barrel organ. A run-in with a wealthy man sends him to prison, he loses his musician's license and his wife leaves him.

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» See also 6 mentions

English (6)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is the 11th book by Joseph Roth I have read, not counting the short stories and feuilletons. Here they are ranked -loosely - from 1 to 11:

The Radetzky March
Job
Weights and Measures
The String of Pearls
Rebellion
The Legend of the Holy Drinker
Hotel Savoy
Zipper and his Father
The Silent Prophet
The Emperor's Tomb
The Spiders Web

Roth is always worth reading. Even in the less successful books, the ones that he dashed off in a hurry when he was short of cash, there are the most surprising insights and beautiful turns of phrase waiting around every corner. ( )
  PaulDalton | Dec 29, 2018 |
http://www.mytwostotinki.com/?p=911

Joseph Roth is nowadays mostly known as a literary fiction writer but in the 1920s and early 1930s his reputation as one of the most prolific journalists was outshining even his fame as a novelist. To those who want to get to know the full Roth, I recommend therefore his journalistic work; frequently he touches issues in his articles that he later on used as material or inspiration for his literary prose.

Roth was best when it came to social issues, to the living conditions of the ordinary, mostly poor population of Austria, Germany, France, and the other countries he visited. He wrote for example several long pieces for the Frankfurter Zeitung and the socialist Vorwärts about the fate and the living conditions of the crippled and physically handicapped ex-soldiers of WWI - if you know the artwork of Otto Dix or George Grosz you know how terribly millions of men were mutilated for the rest of their mostly miserable lives.

One such victim of WWI is Andreas Pum, the central figure of Rebellion, the novel that was also first printed in Vorwärts before a book edition was published. Andreas lost a leg in the war, but he seems strangely happy. Not only has he survived, he also got a medal (one of those pieces of metal that governments are quick to hand out) and a license to play a barrel organ and so he can make a living from the few coins he gets from the people listening to his repertoire. To him that is fair enough.

Andreas is a simple, uneducated man. He doesn't reflect his situation and those war cripples that complain about their fate or the lack of support from the government, he considers as malingerers and thieves. Andreas is at this stage the complete negation of the rebel. He just wishes to improve his life a bit and to have a wife and family. A good fate - so it seems to Andreas - sends him a widow whose plump forms attract him and soon he moves in to the widow's house and can enjoy the life of a husband. He loves the widow's daughter like his own child and even for Muli, the small donkey that carries his barrel organ, he has tender and friendly feelings. Andreas is a kind man.

Everything could be perfect for Andreas, but one day he is being insulted by a rude passenger in the tram, one word gives another and the verbal argument is followed by physical violence. A policeman is soon on the scene and Andreas will be held responsible by the court for his violent behavior. How Andreas becomes - just by coincidence and certain unpredictable events in combination with the vileness of the public organs such as the police - a victim of a system that always holds people like Andreas down, shows Joseph Roth's mastery and also his sympathy with people like Andreas, who are always the victims. And who usually even don't remark it.

To read how Andreas is going through a real ordeal is depressing; although he is just 45 years old, he looks with his completely white hair already like a very old man; but the more he is physically degrading, the more conscious he becomes about his real situation, the more he becomes a rebel - a person who disagrees with the order of things.

When I read the book, I realized that there were certain elements you can find also in most other of Roth's novels and long stories: the main character slips down like on an inclined plane, the physical degradation corresponds with an awakening in terms of self-consciousness and acts of rebellion (like not praying to God anymore), and the tone of the narrative is always close to the legend. The similarities to Job and Legend of a Holy Drinker in this respect are particularly stunning.

Rebellion might not be the best novel of Joseph Roth, but I found it well written and touching. For those who are familiar with Roth's oeuvre it will be particularly interesting how in this early work he prefigured many topics and tropes that he was also using in his most mature works of the late 1920s and 1930s. ( )
  Mytwostotinki | Dec 14, 2015 |
Ma dio era ancora dio se poteva sbagliarsi? ( )
  TheAuntie | Aug 23, 2012 |
Having recently read Joseph Roth's fine short novel, Job (1930), I decided to turn to an even earlier work by him, Rebellion (Die Rebellion), from 1924. It was originally serialized in the German Socialist newspaper "Vorwarts" (Forward), and published in the same year, 1924. This novel along with The Spider's Web and Hotel Savoy make up what is considered Roth's early period.
Rebellion is the story of young Andreas Pum, a veteran of the Great War who lost a leg but gained a medal for his service. He is a simple man who lives with his friend Willi and plays a hurdy-gurdy. He soon marries the recently widowed Fraulein Blumlich, who, in a scene of melodramatic pathos, deftly elicits his request for her hand in marriage. It is a marriage for which they must wait four weeks to avoid appearing improper; a portent of future disappointments for Andreas. His fortunes take a sudden turn for the worse, set off by a chance altercation with a typical bourgeoisie, Herr Arnold. Andreas soon finds himself facing time in jail. His wife reacts to this by leaving him; he loses his license to perform music, and he even loses his friendly mule(sold by his wife). In jail he experiences a quixotic desire to feed the birds outside his window, but the State, to whom he makes a formal request, will not allow this exception to the rules. The prison doctor who examines him tells him that he should not philosophize: "You should have faith, my friend!"
Things change for the better for his friend Willi whose entrepreneurial instincts awaken and lead him out of poverty; but Andreas is doomed for a bad end. In one of its best moments, the story ends with a dream-like sequence where we experience Andreas' last feelings. He is facing the confusion of the after-life and the wonderment expressed: "Andreas began to cry. He didn't know if he was in Heaven or Hell."
The novel suggests a more radical thinker than Roth would become in his great novels, Job and The Radetzky March. Yet, there are signs of the later Roth, and having recently read Job I see suggestions of the musings of Mendel Singer in the thoughts of young Andreas. Both men have seemingly been betrayed by their God and are trying to deal with their life in his apparent absence. In Andreas' case the rebellion has a resonance with the rebellion so finely depicted in Dostoevsky (esp. The Brothers Karamazov). The result for the reader is a short novel that is long on provocative ideas that linger in the mind. ( )
4 vote jwhenderson | Dec 3, 2008 |
World War veteran's self-righteous peg-leggedness propels the drama. The protagonist is not a sage, but he does play a barrel organ while he finds out about the other side of the coin. This novel is somewhat akin to Kafka's Trial in its theme but it is more mundanely anchored as a story. It is also more sympathetic. Rebellion is not the masterpiece that is Roth's Radetzky March, but nevertheless it hints at the author's ability to write that masterpiece eight years later. Roth's writing is self-effacingly elegant as always. ( )
  vaellus | Jun 15, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Rothprimary authorall editionscalculated
Colorni, RenataTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dyer, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hofmann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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