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The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

The Radetzky March (original 1932; edition 2022)

by Joseph Roth (Author)

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2,638704,742 (4.17)1 / 325
Strauss's Radetzky March,signature tune of one of Europe's most powerful regimes, presides over Joseph Roth's account of three generations of the Trotta family in the years preceding the Austro-Hungarian collapse in 1918. Grandfather, son and grandson are equally dependent on the empire- the first for his ennoblement; the second for the civil virtues that make him a meticulous servant of an administration whose failure he can neither comprehend nor survive; the third for the standards of family conduct which he cannot attain but against which he is too enfeebled to rebel… (more)
Title:The Radetzky March
Authors:Joseph Roth (Author)
Info:Granta Books (2022)
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, translation, 1001, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 19thC, military, alcoholism, family saga, fathers and sons, grief, Vienna, fin de siecle, honor, masculinity, 2022, 20thC, 1910s, World War I, Emperor Franz Joseph I, aging, Battle of Solferino, servants

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The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (Author) (1932)


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Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
Published in 1932, this book portrays the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the perspective of three generations of the Trotta family. It opens in 1859 when Emperor Franz Joseph is almost killed in the Battle of Solferino but is saved by Lt. Joseph Trotta. As a reward, the Emperor bestows an award that carries a noble title, and he becomes Baron Trotta von Sipolje. He is a man of integrity who protests when a fabricated version of his heroism is published in history texts. His son, the second Baron called Herr von Trotta, becomes an administrative official. Herr von Trotta is a devotee of the Empire, but eventually becomes disillusioned. Carl Joseph, son of Herr von Trotta, joins the cavalry. Carl Joseph gets involved in gambling, affairs, and drinking. The downward trajectory of the family mirrors that of Austria-Hungary.

The writing is wonderful. I read the English translation from the original German by Joachim Neugroschel and he has done a marvelous job. The writing is descriptive and evocative. I tend to enjoy writing of an earlier time period, and this book is right up my alley. For example, I can easily picture this scene:

“The little bells on the harnesses of their horses jingled softly, incessantly moved by the restlessness of the shivering animals. The days resembled one another like snowflakes. The officers of the lancer regiment were waiting for some extraordinary event to break the monotony of their days. No one knew what kind of event it might be. But this winter seemed to be concealing some kind of dreadful surprise in its jingling bosom. And one day it erupted from the winter like red lightning from white snow.”

When Herr von Trotta starts to become disillusioned with the Empire, he decides to visit his son, and it is easy for me to feel the sense of sadness and foreboding he feels at the loss of its former glory:

“The district captain had been cheerful and exuberant when he had ridden into an adventuresome region and to his dear son. Now he was returning home, alone, from a lonesome son and from this borderland, where the collapse of the world could already be seen as clearly as one sees a thunderstorm on the edge of a city, whose streets lie still unaware and blissful under a blue sky.”

It is not a cheery book. The world is on the precipice of the Great War. Joseph Roth (1894-1939) comments on the significant changes in the value of life that came with the massive slaughter:

“BACK THEN, BEFORE the Great War, when the incidents reported on these pages took place, it was not yet a matter of indifference whether a person lived or died. If a life was snuffed out from the host of the living, another life did not instantly replace it and make people forget the deceased. Instead, a gap remained where he had been, and both the near and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they saw this gap.”

This book will appeal to history buffs. I always enjoy reading fictional portrayals of historic events by people who lived through them. It brings to me an authentic sense of what life was like back then. I enjoyed it very much and can see why it is considered a classic.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
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.
( )
1 vote mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
An excellent time-period piece that covers the years 1860-1914. It chronicles 3 generations of the Trotta family (Austria) and also the Hapsburg Empire. Both are "old" and crumbling; neither can survive in the "new world." A very good piece of writing, but also very depressing. 355 pages 4.5 stars. I knocked 1/2 star off because the first chapter was very confusing! ( )
  Tess_W | Sep 24, 2021 |
This is a remarkable book, published in 1932, translated from the German. I got bogged down in it a couple times but that reflects more on me than on this deeply felt and beautifully written story. Very briefly, it tells the story of the Von Trotta family, the lives of three generations of men who served the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph. They and the emperor preside at the fall of the Habsburg empire and the change of the world that came in its wake; first and most dire being the start of World War I.

What I found so compelling was the way Roth captured the fading empire, the way the symbols and trappings, especially military, lost their lustre and meaning and power to motivate. A podcast I listened to about the book noted that the dying of old regime and all the ways of living that were stabilized by it led to something much worse in the nationalism(s) that succeeded it. But although that is an interesting idea, I think the author was critical of the empire--for its superficiality, it's tamping down of human expressiveness in the name of form, hierarchy, and authority. (Part of the argument is that Roth, a Jew, was a successful journalist in the Germany that existed prior to WW2; that nationalism swept away the possibility of diverse peoples living together under one rule. Maybe. I don't know.)

Some of the writing, in translation by Joachim Neugroschel, is so beautiful and odd. There are piles of adjectives, and descriptions that evoke a Picasso cubist portrait. The English is therefore slightly off, yet enhanced too.

Here are a couple samples:

In those days there were a lot of men like Kapturak on the borders of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. They began to circle around the old empire like those black cowardly birds that ogle a dying man from infinitely far away. Dark and impatient, beating their wings, they wait for his end. Their slanting beaks jab into their prey. No one knows where they come from or where they fly off to. They are the feathered brethren of enigmatic Death; they are his harbingers, his escorts, and his successors. (Ch. 12, p. 172)

That was a stern time, as we know. But it recognized exceptions and even liked them. It was one of the rare aristocratic principles, such as that mere commoners were second-class human beings yet certain middle-class officers became personal adjutants to the Kaiser; that Jews could claim no higher distinctions yet certain Jews were knighted and became friends with archdukes; that women had to observe a traditional morality yet certain women could philander like a cavalry officer. (Those were principles that would be labeled "hypocritical" today because we are so much more relentless: relentless, honest, and humorless.) (Ch. 13, p. 187)

Outside, among the lower ranks, Herr von Trotta waited, the son of the Hero of Solferino, holding his hat, in the persistently trickling rain. The trees in Schönbrunn Park signed and soughed; the rain whipped them, gentle, patient, lavish. The evening came. Curiosity-seekers came. The park filled up. The rain wouldn't stop. The onlookers spelled one another; they came, they went. Herr von Trotta remained. The night set in, the steps were empty, the people went home to bed. Herr von Trotta pressed against the gate. He heard carriages draw up; sometimes a window was unlatched over his head. Voices called. The gate was opened, the gate was closed. He was not seen. The rain trickled, gentle, relentless; the trees soughed and sighed. (Vigil at the death of the Kaiser, Epilogue, p. 329-330)

The Great Books of Literature Podcast
The Institute of Public Affairs, Episode 8 is about The Radetzky March. ( )
  jdukuray | Jun 23, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (44 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, JosephAuthorprimary 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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Strauss's Radetzky March,signature tune of one of Europe's most powerful regimes, presides over Joseph Roth's account of three generations of the Trotta family in the years preceding the Austro-Hungarian collapse in 1918. Grandfather, son and grandson are equally dependent on the empire- the first for his ennoblement; the second for the civil virtues that make him a meticulous servant of an administration whose failure he can neither comprehend nor survive; the third for the standards of family conduct which he cannot attain but against which he is too enfeebled to rebel

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