Some thoughts on Joseph Roth’s The Emperor’s Tomb – Die Kapuzinergruft

Published in 1938, Die KapuzinergruftThe Emperor’s Tomb, was one of Joseph Roth’s last novels and the last that was published during his lifetime. Roth died in 1939, in exile, of the complications of a double pneumonia, that was possibly aggravated due to the sudden withdrawal of alcohol.

The Emperor’s Tomb tells the story of Franz Ferdinand Trotta and begins shortly before the first world war and ends with Austria’s Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. In many ways the book can be seen as a sequel to The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth’s most famous novel. Usually I would write a brief summary but since this review is part of a readalong and since Emma has already posted an excellent summary of the book, I’ll skip this part and add a link to her post instead – here.

For this post, I’d like to focus on some topics I found of interest.

WWI

As many of the readers of this blog know/may remember, for many years, I hosted a Literature and War readalong. Roth had been a chosen author in the past, even though he doesn’t portray the war as such, as rather the mental state of war, or people during war time. I ususally like this approach but in this novel, it was puzzling for several reasons. As I said before, the book begins before WWI, in 1913, and ends in 1938. While Roth describes the time before and after the war years in great detail, things get blurry from 1914 to 1918, although, allegedly, Trotta spends his years in a Russian POW camp in Siberia. If you’d never read anything about any prisoner of war camps, reading this novel would make you think it was a bit of harsher version of a boy scout camp. There aren’t any details described. No fighting happens. This is puzzling, if not bizarre. My knowledge of war literature made me assume one thing – Roth spent his WWI years sheltered. Although I own a huge Roth biography, I haven’t read it yet, but I picked it up and overflew some passages that confirmed what I suspected. He was enlisted but since he was initially considered unfit for military service, he never saw any action, but spent the war years behind a desk. Apparently, to explain why he hadn’t seen any action during the war, he pretended that he had been in Russian captivity, which isn’t true. I think this shows clearly that he must have felt guilty. While I’m not familiar with his earlier years, I know a bit about his final years, and guilt has been a defining emotion for Roth. Once it’s clear that this is why the book is so unspecific when it comes to the actual war, one can move on and concentrate on other elements. As a portrayal of the end of an era and the end of a class system, this is absolutely brilliant and nuanced. And while Trotta’s war experience lacks realism, the way he feels when he comes home doesn’t, because the strong feeling of alienation and of being a stranger in one’s own country was something many Austrians felt at that time.

Women

Before going to war, Trotta marries a girl, Elisabeth, he’d been in love with for ages. Due to a sad story, involving a servant, the marriage isn’t consummated and his new wife flees, angry. When he returns from the war, she’s not exactly keen on seeing him. Like so many women back then, she’s learned to live a life according to her own choices. She certainly doesn’t want to abandon her freedom. And she is living with another woman with whom she clearly is in a physical relationship. Trotta isn’t happy about this but he’s not prejudiced. If it had been a man, it would have been the same to him. Only he might have felt more threatened as the only reason why his wife, in the end returns to him, is because she wants a child. Once the child is born, however, it doesn’t hold her back and she leaves it with his father. I found this surprisingly modern. I’m sure Roth was freethinking when it came to relationships, but I also think that Elisabeth is a character that was quite common at the time. It’s sad to think that so much of that freedom was lost again later.

Austrian pre-war diversity

I don’t think I’ve ever read an author that made me realize just how diverse the Austro-Hungarian Empire was. It was a multinational state, with people speaking different languages, following different religions. In this book Trotta, who is descendant of the non-aristocratic line of the “von Trottas”, feels a stronger connection with the peasant side of his family. While he’s called “Herr Baron”, he doesn’t identify with the aristocracy. When a cousin from Sipolje comes to claim a part of his inheritance, he also introduces Trotta to a friend. That friend invites Trotta to spend time with him in Galicia. Then the war breaks out. Trotta suddenly feel estranged from his former aristocratic friends and asks to be transferred to the regiment in which his cousin and the friend serve. Back in Vienna, after the war, Trotta mourns not only the past but the missed opportunity. He believes that Austria-Hungary could have been a really great state, especially due to its diversity, but instead, it only chose the German part.

Final thoughts

This is a flawed book. The structure is uneven and the war section is so far from realistic, it’s almost painful. Nonetheless, I loved this book. I love Roth’s writing, the mournful tone, his description, his humanity. And there’s also some gentle humour. Roth is outstanding at showing people’s quirks. The portrait of the mother in this book, is an excellent example. At first, she’s very rooted in her old ways, but once change has come, she embraces it and enjoys it because it means there’s new life, where there was only stuffiness before. Sadly, it’s all an illusion, but she’ll never really find out.

I’m glad, Lizzy chose this novel for her readalong. You can find her thoughts here.

This was my fifth Joseph Roth novel and so far, I’ve liked them all. If you’re interested, here are my reviews of Weights and MeasuresHotel Savoy and of Flight Without End.I’ve read The Radetzky March pre-blogging.

Joseph Roth: Flight Without End – Die Flucht ohne Ende (1927) Literature and War Readalong November 2014

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I’ve read a few novels by Joseph Roth now and every time I’m surprised how different they are. Die Flucht ohne EndeFlight Without End is no exception. This is a Roth I’ve not encountered so far, or only in snippets. Flight Without End clearly shows the mark of the journalist, but it’s also the book of someone who cannot take the society he lives in seriously. Rarely have I seen him this sarcastic, mocking individuals and groups of people. And rarely have I come across a Roth that was this funny. I had to laugh out loud more than once and truly wish the translator was able to capture this. Roth’s wit and humour is very subtle and although a translation could be literal, the humour might get lost in translation as it’s often tied to one word that changes the meaning. Mostly he uses it when describing someone. Here’s just a short example.

Eine junge Schauspielerin, die zwar mit dem dicken Zweiten Bürgermeister geschlafen hatte, aber unbeschädigt aus seiner Umarmung wieder herausgekommen war und teilweise sogar erfrischt.

A young actress, who indeed slept with the fat second mayor but came out of this embrace undamaged, partially even refreshed.

I take just one element of the sentence to explain what I mean. It’s entirely possible to choose the word unharmed instead of undamaged but it would remove a lot of the fun. “Unbeschädigt” means both unharmed or undamaged, but normally you’d use it for an object, while unharmed would rather mean a person. Roth chose undamaged very consciously.

What struck me too in this book was how cosmopolitan Roth was. The book starts in the Russian steppe, moves to Baku, from there to Vienna, then to a unamed city on the Rhine, and ends in Paris. Each place is described masterfully, its essence captured, its character laid bare.

The story is a bit more problematic. I’ve seen this book mentioned as one of Roth’s weakest works, which would have needed some editing. I agree to some extent. I didn’t mind the lack of plot. What we find here is basically the story of a quest. Franz Tunda, former officer, then captive of the Russian army, escapee, revolutionary, drifter and private tutor, lacks one thing – a home. What is home for a man like Tunda? If he can be of some use, he’s adopted everywhere, but never really welcome. He stays an outsider and this makes him a keen observer. He sees behind everyone’s masks, doesn’t buy any of the big theories on progress and wealth. He’s as wary of the communists as he is of the socialist’s and the bourgeoisie. They all have a hidden agenda. That’s why his flight is without end because, as vast as the world may be, society ultimately makes it very small and there’s no home for those who don’t play along. When I get so much insight and analysis of people and countries I don’t mind a lack of plot. My reservation has something to do with the structure of the book. It’s presented as if we were reading an account of someone who is Tunda’s friend. At the same time there are accounts that are directly made by Tunda and it switches occasionally from third to first person. I think this would have needed editing but it’s a minor flaw.

One of the most poignant scenes is when Tunda visits the grave of the unknown soldier, under the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris.

The blue flame burned not to honor the dead soldiers, but to reassure the survivors. Nothing was more cruel than the blissfully ignorant devotion of a surviving father at the grave of his son, whom he had sacrificed without knowing it. Tunda sometimes felt as if he himself lay there in the ground, as if we all lay there, all those of use who set out from home and were killed and buried, or who came back but never came home. For it doesn’t really matter whether we’re buried or alive and well. We’re strangers in this world, we come from the realm of shadows.

Flight Without End doesn’t show us a poetic or lyrical Roth. It’s not elegiac or nostalgic. It’s sarcastic and ironic. It’s the work of someone who saw the downside of globalisation long before anyone else and who was no fool when it came to human beings. There are a few good ones out there but they hardly ever occupy the big stages; they might be hidden somewhere in the Taiga, doing their thing quietly and unseen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s witty, irreverent, unflinching and astute. It may not be the best book for someone who hasn’t read Roth yet, but it’s a must-read for those who already like him.

 

Other reviews

Vishy (Vishy’s Blog) 

 

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Flight Without End is the eleventh book in the Literature and War Readalong 2014. The next book is Letters from a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and four of her friends. Discussion starts on Monday 29 December, 2014. Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2014, including the book blurbs can be found here.

Joseph Roth: Weights and Measures – Das falsche Gewicht (1937)

Weights and Measures

How does an upright, steadfast man survive among corruption, hypocrisy, and crime? Roth’s answer to this question, which lies at the heart of Weights and Measures – Das falsche Gewicht, is pretty simple: he doesn’t. Either he is tainted or he will go down.

Anselm Eibenschütz, a former officer, leaves his soldier’s life behind and becomes the inspector of weights and measures in Zlotogrod. He hasn’t changed profession by choice but because his wife urged him too. The change is hard on Eibenschütz. He’s not used to this region; it’s colder and rougher than where he used to live, and he isn’t cut out for the job. It’s not to his liking and since he is incorruptible and upright, he clashes with the merchants of the region. Hardly anyone conducts honest business. They all rely on extra-money, coming from the use of false weights and measures and smuggling. While the old inspector was open to bribes, Eibenschütz is not. He reports every single misconduct and sends even the poorest to prison. A kind man at heart, this is especially hard on him. He doesn’t want to punish those who have nothing, but can’t make exceptions because the richer would find out and he would be denounced. He finds ways to help the poor though. Either he doesn’t check on their shops or he warns them somehow.

Eibenschütz blames his wife for his misfortunes. Why did she have to talk him into leaving his former life? He begins to hate and neglect her and when he finds out she’s cheating on him, it offers him an excuse to neglect her even more.

In the province of Zlotogrod is a border tavern that is visited by smugglers. Jadlowker, the owner, is a profiteer and famous everywhere for his criminal activities. He lives with a beautiful gypsy woman, Euphemia. When poor Eibenschütz sees her for the first time he falls in love and becomes a regular customer.

From that moment on it goes downhill for Eibenschütz. Even though he is able to arrest Jadlowker and is named supervisor of the tavern, he doesn’t find happiness, but turns into an alcoholic. Eibenschütz isn’t the only one who is tested. There’s an unseasonably warm winter towards the end of the book; a cholera epidemic breaks out and kills hundreds. Because people fear to touch the dead, prisoners are used as undertakers. Jadlowker grabs the opportunity and flees. The end of the book is foreseeable and tragic.

I thought this was an absolutely remarkable novel for many reasons. The main theme is the clash between an honest man and a corrupt system, but what is amazing is how the story unfolds in front of the background of the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian monarchy and serves as a mirror. The book really gives you a feel for how huge this monarchy was, how extended, and how many cultures were part of it.

What I liked most is how Roth used the descriptions of the place and the weather to show Eibenschütz’s emotions and to underline the wild remoteness of this region. There were many beautiful small scenes and episodes. Eibenschütz is upright and stiff, but he’s also very emotional and feels deeply. His life as a soldier sheltered him emotionally; experiencing heartache and passion, unhinges him. When he falls in love he discovers nature. Before his “awakening” nature is just a phenomenon he sees but barely notices. The changing seasons bring rain or snow, breaking ice or sunshine, but that doesn’t affect him. Once he’s “awake” he feels the seasons, feels he’s part of it.

Weights and Measures is a wonderful book. Short, complex, and filled with poetic descriptions. Knowing that Roth battled alcoholism all of his life, gives Eibenschütz’ descent into alcoholism an even deeper meaning.

Here’s a wonderful review by Max (Pechorin’s Journal) which contains quotes.

Literature and War Readalong November 30 2014 Meets German Literature Month: Flight Without End – Die Flucht ohne Ende by Joseph Roth

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Jospeh Roth, one of the greats of Austrian literature, seemed like a wonderful choice, not only for the Literature and War Readalong in which we focus on WWI, but also as part of German Literature Month. And because he’s such a fine author, there will not only be a readalong but the last week of GLM ( 24 – 30 November) is dedicated to his work. After some rather unfortunate readalong choices, I’m confident this one will not disappoint.

Joseph Roth

Joseph Roth was an Austrian-Jewish writer and journalist. He died at the age of forty-seven in Paris. His early death was probably brought on by his alcoholism. His last book, called The Legend of the Holy Drinker, is inspired by his own battle with alcohol.

Some of his books deal with the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (The Radetzky March, The Emperor’s Tomb), others like Job focus on Judaism. Although he was Jewish, Catholicism was important for Roth and it’s assumed that he converted towards the end of his life.

Here are the first sentences of Flight Without End

Franz Tunda, first lieutenant in the Austrian Army, became a Russian prisoner of war in August 1916. He was taken to a camp a few versts north-east of Irkutsk. He succeeded in escaping with the help of a Siberian Pole. On the remote, isolated and dreary farm of this Pole, the officer remained until spring 1919.

And some details and the blurb for those who want to join

Flight Witout End – Die Flucht ohne Ende by Joseph Roth (Austria 1927) WWI, Classic,  144 pages

Flight Without End, written in Paris, in 1927, is perhaps the most personal of Joseph Roth’s novels. Introduced by the author as the true account of his friend Franz Tunda it tells the story of a young ex-office of the Austro-Hungarian Army in the 1914- 1918 war, who makes his way back from captivity in Siberia and service with the Bolshevik army, only to find out that the old order, which has shaped him has crumbled and that there is no place for him in the new “European” culture that has taken its place. Everywhere – in his dealings with society, family, women – he finds himself an outsider, both attracted and repelled by the values of the old world, yet unable to accept the new ideologies.

 

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The discussion starts on Friday, 28 November 2014.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2014, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

Literature and War Readalong 2014

The Black FlowerThe Killer AngelsMarch

Toby's RoomPrivate PeacefulFear

Undertones of WarMy Dear I Wanted To Tell YouPhoenix and Ashes

The LieFlight Without EndLetters From a Lost Generation

The books for Literature and War Readalong 2011 and 2012 were following the different wars in chronological order. This year, 2013, we focused on different countries and wars we hadn’t covered so far. Next year will be about genre and WWI.

I was afraid a whole year dedicated to WWI books would be too much, especially since a lot of blogs run events for the Centenary, that’s why I decided to start with three novels on the American Civil War, one of which was part of 2011’s readalong, but had to be postponed. After that it’s all about WWI and to make it more interesting, I’ve included different genres: Memoir, letters, historical fiction, literary fiction, a children’s book and one fantasy novel. I hope there will be something for everyone among these titles.

The Black Flower

January, Friday 31 

The Black Flower by Howard Bahr (US 2000), American Civil War, Novel, 272 pages

The Black Flower is the gripping story of a young Confederate rifleman from Mississippi named Bushrod Carter, who serves in General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee during the Civil War battle that takes place in Franklin, Tennessee, in November 1864. Written with reverent attention to historical accuracy, the book vividly documents the fear, suffering, and intense friendships that are all present on the eve of the battle and during its aftermath. When Bushrod is wounded in the Confederate charge, he is taken to a makeshift hospital where he comes under the care of Anna, who has already lost two potential romances to battle. Bushrod and Anna’s poignant attempt to forge a bond of common humanity in the midst of the pathos and horror of battle serves as a powerful reminder that the war that divided America will not vanish quietly into the page of history.

The Killer Angels

February, Friday 28

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (US 1974), American Civil War, Novel, 355 pages

The late Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (1974) concerns the battle of Gettysburg and was the basis for the 1993 film Gettysburg. The events immediately before and during the battle are seen through the eyes of Confederate Generals Lee, Longstreet, and Armistead and Federal General Buford, Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, and a host of others. The author’s ability to convey the thoughts of men in war as well as their confusion-the so-called “fog of battle”-is outstanding. This unabridged version is read clearly by award-winning actor George Hearn, who gives each character a different voice and effectively conveys their personalities; chapters and beginnings and ends of sides are announced. Music from the movie version adds to the drama. All this comes in a beautiful package with a battle map. Recommended for public libraries not owning previous editions from Recorded Books and Blackstone Audio (Audio Reviews, LJ 2/1/92 and LJ 2/1/93, respectively).

March

March, Monday 31

March by Geraldine Brooks (Australia 2005) American Civil War, Novel, 304 pages

Brooks’s luminous second novel, after 2001’s acclaimed Year of Wonders, imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. An idealistic Concord cleric, March becomes a Union chaplain and later finds himself assigned to be a teacher on a cotton plantation that employs freed slaves, or “contraband.” His narrative begins with cheerful letters home, but March gradually reveals to the reader what he does not to his family: the cruelty and racism of Northern and Southern soldiers, the violence and suffering he is powerless to prevent and his reunion with Grace, a beautiful, educated slave whom he met years earlier as a Connecticut peddler to the plantations. In between, we learn of March’s earlier life: his whirlwind courtship of quick-tempered Marmee, his friendship with Emerson and Thoreau and the surprising cause of his family’s genteel poverty. When a Confederate attack on the contraband farm lands March in a Washington hospital, sick with fever and guilt, the first-person narrative switches to Marmee, who describes a different version of the years past and an agonized reaction to the truth she uncovers about her husband’s life. Brooks, who based the character of March on Alcott’s transcendentalist father, Bronson, relies heavily on primary sources for both the Concord and wartime scenes; her characters speak with a convincing 19th-century formality, yet the narrative is always accessible. Through the shattered dreamer March, the passion and rage of Marmee and a host of achingly human minor characters, Brooks’s affecting, beautifully written novel drives home the intimate horrors and ironies of the Civil War and the difficulty of living honestly with the knowledge of human suffering.

Toby's Room

April, Monday 28

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker (UK 2013), WWI, Novel, 272 pages

Pat Barker returns to the First World War in Toby’s Room, a dark, compelling novel of human desire, wartime horror and the power of friendship.

When Toby is reported ‘Missing, Believed Killed’, another secret casts a lengthening shadow over Elinor’s world: how exactly did Toby die – and why? Elinor determines to uncover the truth. Only then can she finally close the door to Toby’s room. Moving from the Slade School of Art to Queen Mary’s Hospital, where surgery and art intersect in the rebuilding of the shattered faces of the wounded, Toby’s Room is a riveting drama of identity, damage, intimacy and loss. Toby’s Room is Pat Barker’s most powerful novel yet.

Private Peaceful

May, Friday 30

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo (UK 2003)  WWI, Children’s Book, 192 pages

Heroism or cowardice? A stunning story of the First World War from a master storyteller.

Told in the voice of a young soldier, the story follows 24 hours in his life at the front during WW1, and captures his memories as he looks back over his life. Full of stunningly researched detail and engrossing atmosphere, the book leads to a dramatic and moving conclusion.

Both a love story and a deeply moving account of the horrors of the First World War, this book will reach everyone from 9 to 90.

Fear

June, Friday 27

FearLa Peur by Gabriel Chevallier (France 1930)  WWI, Classic, Novel, 320 pages

It is 1915. Jean Dartemont is just a young man. He is not a rebel, but neither is he awed by authority and when he’s called up and given only the most rudimentary training, he refuses to follow his platoon. Instead, he is sent to Artois, where he experiences the relentless death and violence of the trenches. His reprieve finally comes when he is wounded, evacuated and hospitalised.

The nurses consider it their duty to stimulate the soldiers’ fighting spirit, and so ask Jean what he did at the front.

His reply?

‘I was afraid.’

First published in France in 1930, Fear is both graphic and clear-eyed in its depiction of the terrible experiences of soldiers during the First World War.

The Lie

July, Monday 28

The Lie by Helen Dunmore (UK 2014) WWI, Novel, 304 pages

Set during and just after the First World War, The Lie is an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel of love, memory and devastating loss by one of the UK’s most acclaimed storytellers. Cornwall, 1920, early spring.

A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.

Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life.

Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him.

He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?

Undertones of War

August, Friday 29

Undertones of War by Edmund Blunden (UK 1928) WWI, Memoir, 288 pages

In what is one of the finest autobiographies to come out of the First World War, the distinguished poet Edmund Blunden records his experiences as an infantry subaltern in France and Flanders. Blunden took part in the disastrous battles of the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele, describing the latter as ‘murder, not only to the troops, but to their singing faiths and hopes’. In his compassionate yet unsentimental prose, he tells of the heroism and despair found among the officers. Blunden’s poems show how he found hope in the natural landscape; the only thing that survives the terrible betrayal enacted in the Flanders fields.

My Dear I Wanted To Tell You

September, Monday 29

My Dear, I wanted to tell you by Louisa Young (UK 2011) WWI, Historical Fiction, 336 pages

A letter, two lovers, a terrible lie. In war, truth is only the first casualty. ‘Inspires the kind of devotion among its readers not seen since David Nicholls’ One Day’ The Times

While Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke fight for their country, their survival and their sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke do what they can at home. Beautiful, obsessive Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: each day Julia goes through rituals to prepare for her beloved husband’s return. Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, and with problems of their own already, want above all to make promises – but how can they when the future is not in their hands? And Rose? Well, what did happen to the traditionally brought-up women who lost all hope of marriage, because all the young men were dead?

Moving between Ypres, London and Paris, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is a deeply affecting, moving and brilliant novel of love and war, and how they affect those left behind as well as those who fight.

Phoenix and Ashes

October, Friday 31

Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey (US 2004) WWI, Fantasy, 468 pages

In this dark and atmospheric rendition of the Cinderella fairy tale, an intelligent young Englishwoman is made into a virtual slave by her evil stepmother. Her only hope of rescue comes in the shape of a scarred World War I pilot of noble blood, whose own powers over the elements are about to be needed more than ever.

“A dark tale full of the pain and devastation of war…and a couple of wounded protagonists worth routing for.”

Flight Without End

November, Friday 28

Flight Witout End – Die Flucht ohne Ende by Joseph Roth (Austria 1927) WWI, Classic,  144 pages

Flight Without End, written in Paris, in 1927, is perhaps the most personal of Joseph Roth’s novels. Introduced by the author as the true account of his friend Franz Tunda it tells the story of a young ex-office of the Austro-Hungarian Army in the 1914- 1918 war, who makes his way back from captivity in Siberia and service with the Bolshevik army, only to find out that the old order, which has shaped him has crumbled and that there is no place for him in the new “European” culture that has taken its place. Everywhere – in his dealings with society, family, women – he finds himself an outsider, both attracted and repelled by the values of the old world, yet unable to accept the new ideologies.

Letters From a Lost Generation

December, Monday 29

Letters from a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends (UK) WWI, Letters, 448 pages

Nothing in the papers, not the most vivid and heart-rending descriptions, have made me realise war like your letters’ Vera Brittain to Roland Leighton, 17 April 1915.

This selection of letters, written between 1913 & 1918, between Vera Brittain and four young men – her fiance Roland Leighton, her brother Edward and their close friends Victor Richardson & Geoffrey Thurlow present a remarkable and profoundly moving portrait of five young people caught up in the cataclysm of total war.

Roland, ‘Monseigneur’, is the ‘leader’ & his letters most clearly trace the path leading from idealism to disillusionment. Edward, ‘ Immaculate of the Trenches’, was orderly & controlled, down even to his attire. Geoffrey, the ‘non-militarist at heart’ had not rushed to enlist but put aside his objections to the war for patriotism’s sake. Victor on the other hand, possessed a very sweet character and was known as ‘Father Confessor’. An important historical testimony telling a powerful story of idealism, disillusionment and personal tragedy.

I think the list is very different from the last years. The one or the other title like Mercedes Lackey’s book is a bit of gamble but I tried to make the list as diverse as possible.

I hope that many of you will join.

Joseph Roth, Irmgard Keun, Christa Wolf Giveaway -The Winners

It’s my pleasure to announce this week’s winners who have been drawn by random.org list generator.

The winner of Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March is – megan

The winnder of Irmgard Keun’s After Midnight is – Susanna P. from Susie Bookworm

The winner of Christa Wolf’s No Place on Earth is – Litlove from Tales from the Reading Room.

Happy reading, megan, Susanna and Litlove!

Please send me your contact details via beautyisasleepingcat at gmail dot com.

The giveaways are part of Lizzy and my German Literature Month in November.

The next giveaway will take place on Wednesday 2 November.

Should anyone want to participate in the organized Effi Briest readalong, please leave a comment or sign up here and we will send you the questions for week 1. 

Wednesdays are wunderbar – Joseph Roth, Irmgard Keun and Christa Wolf (English or German) Giveaway

Today we have a different kind of giveaway. The books are personal contributions and that is why you can win them either in English or in German. The giveaway is part of Lizzy and my German Literature Month in November.

The books I selected are the following:

Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March (1932).

The Radetzky March is one of the very great novels of 20th century literature. It’s a swan song, a melancholic depiction of the end of an era.

The Radetzky March can fairly claim to be one of the great novels of the last century. Its theme, beautifully articulated, is the end of an era. His anthem for a vanished world has the intense, fleeting beauty of a sunset’ Sunday Telegraph ‘He saw, he listened, he understood. The Radetzky March is a dark, disturbing novel of eccentric beauty… If you have yet to experience Roth, begin here, and then read everything’ Eileen Battersby, Irish Times ‘The true reading pleasure afforded by the rich environment Roth captures may well have increased over time, while the schisms at the heart of Europe continue to fascinate. It seems that we are rediscovering in twentieth-century Central European literature classics for a new millennium.”

Book number two is After Midnight (1937) by Irmgard Keun.

Keun was a very successful writer until the Nazi’s came. Her novel After Midnight and all of her other works (the most famous is The Artificial Silk Girl) were confiscated and banned. She flew from Nazi Germany together with her lover Joseph Roth. Keun is a tragic figure. In and out of psychiatric hospitals, alcoholism… Her biography is as fascinating as her novels. There is a lot of her own life in the novels too.

What I like a lot about her writing is that it seems so deceptively simple while in reality it is full of explosives. In After Midnight a young woman with the voice of a child describes the most upsetting things. It’s a lucid depiction of the ascent of Nazism and shows, like not many other novels, how and why the Nazi’s were so successful. The fact that a very simple, almost simpleminded girl tells the story makes it an uncanny read.

In 1937, German author Irmgard Keun had only recently fled Nazi Germany with her lover Joseph Roth when she wrote this slim, exquisite, and devastating book. It captures the unbearable tension, contradictions, and hysteria of pre-war Germany like no other novel. Yet even as it exposes human folly, the book exudes a hopeful humanism. It is full of humor and light, even as it describes the first moments of a nightmare. After Midnight is a masterpiece that deserves to be read and remembered anew.

The third book is Christa Wolf’s No Place on Earth (1979).

No Place on Earth is a special book for me and a special book for this event. It is my favourite Christa Wolf and its topic fits nicely into our event as it depicts an imaginary encounter between Heinrich von Kleist and the poet Karoline von Günderrode. Von Günderrode is hardly read anymore although she was very influential. She was the friend of Bettina von Arnheim (born Bettina von Brentano, sister of Clemens Brentano) who wrote a book about her which is really wonderful. Von Günderrode and von Kleist never really met but – that’s what Christa Wolf imagines – if they had…. Who knows, they might not have ended their lives. Both authors committed suicide at an early age and are seen as victims of the circumstances in which they lived. In Wolf’s novel they are given the opportunity to meet and to find that they are kindred spirits. It’s a very poetical novel and I would wish that whoever wins it will like it as much as I did.

This fictionalized account of an encounter in 1804 between the poet Karoline von Gunderrode and writer Heinrich von Kleist is pieced together from extracts of actual letters. In real life, both committed suicide some years after the events in this book.

If you would like to win one of those books, or enter for more than one, please let me know which ones you would like and why you would like to win them. Also indicate if you would like the book in English or in German. There is only one little condition – you should be a participant of German Literature Month.

The giveaway is open internationally, the books will be shipped by amazon or the book depository. The winners will be announced on Sunday 30 October 18.00 – European – (Zürich) time.