Joseph Roth (1894-1939) was the great elegist of the cosmopolitan and doomed Central European culture that flourished in the dying days of the Austrian Empire. His books include The Legend of the Holy Drinker, Confession of a Murderer, Flight Without End, Right and Left, The Emperor's Tomb, The String of Pearls and The Radetzky March.
Published in 1927 but never translated into English, Roth's essays speak afresh in this rendering by the translator of four of his novels. Roth describes the experiences of Jews in order to explore solutions to the Jewish question, particularly the struggles regarding anti-Semitism and an allegiance strained between faith and country. Reflecting his travels, Roth creates affectionate portraits of individual Jews living across Europe. Communities in Berlin and Vienna receive emphasis, and there is an entire chapter about the Soviet Union's treatment of Jews. Roth denounces trust in assimilation, nationalism, and Western humanism. Instead, he advocates respect for Eastern Jews, who value spiritual and historical qualities that bind Jews together and supersede politics and culture. While Roth accepts Zionism as a response to anti-Semitism, he views it as only a partial solution. These essays represent a vivid, historically significant view of the Jewish experience, even though Roth often builds his points on sweeping generalizations about groups of people, cities, or even countries. Another related, recently published work is Ritchie Robertson's The Jewish Question in German Literature, 1749-1939: Emancipation and Its Discontents (Oxford Univ., 1999). Recommended for specialized collections and academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]ÄMarianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
'This [is a] rich little book...Roth's gift of phrasing, which can switch without warning from lyrical sentiment to irony, never deserts him' Observer; 'This new book contains superb reportage' The Irish Times; 'Almost every page has flashes of the novelist's descriptive wit and the trained journalist's eye for a story' Sunday Telegraph; 'It shows some prophetic insights, and some illusions' Evening Standard; 'The Wandering Jews reconnects with the rich complexities of European Jewish culture before it was swallowed up by the Holocaust. Roth's brilliant and penetrating analysis proved tragically prophetic. At this distance, it gives a timeless perspective on the vulnerability of dispossessed people everywhere' The Times; 'Of the many books written about the Jewish people few have approached the clarity and exactness achieved in this short, astonishing study. Roth's reportage remains vivid and pertinent. As a cultural study of a homeless, persecuted race it is as perceptive as it is practical. His lightness of touch always prevails. Above all the fiction is unforgettable, the prose fluid and beautiful. It must also be said he is a forgotten master- the fiction is evocative, atmospheric and accessible. Read everything he has written - and wonder at one of literature's most enduring, beguiling and deserving voices' Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times; 'Roth...is one of the greatest. Why he was forgotten, I have no idea...In The Wandering Jews, a book dozens of times larger than itself in love and argument and stern sympathy...[Roth] also demonstrates that war is not necessary to break our faith. Only civilisation is. Only a writer who had chosen to live with that sound of shattering could do that.' New Statesman