The Radetzky March / Joseph Roth
When you take reading seriously, you need to pick up a classic masterpiece from time to time. For my upcoming book Dylan Hanagid Modern Times I had to read a lot of classics and that was fun: I really enjoyed reading Ovid's Tristia and Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. And a lot beside it. But that's done now so I had to find something else: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. who was born in a Jewish family in 1894 in Brody, a small town in Galicia, now in Ukraine, the most north-eastern corner of the Habsburg empire, and died in 1939 in Paris. Roth served in the Austro-Hungarian army and later worked as a journalist in Germany, but left in 1933 to escape the Nazi's who had also forbidden his books.
The Radetzky March tells the story of the rise and fall of the Trotta family who served in the Austro-Hungary empire as officials and as military men in a time that the Great War was slowly becoming unavoidable. The Russian empire of Czar Nicholas II had seen its share of troubles in the uprising of 1905; Emperor Franz Joseph should have been a warned man.
Grandfather Joseph Trotta had as a young soldier saved the life of the Emperor who was appropriately grateful, gave the man a large sum of money and a title. The son of Joseph Trotta is in awe and has a friend paint his fathers portrait that will loom over the story until the very end of the story. It is during the life of the grandson Carl Joseph that it becomes clear that the old world is about the end. The empire is about to disintegrate and through the embarrassing downfall of Carl Joseph Trotta the author sketches the disaster that is coming down on an entire generation. Beautifully translated by Joachim Neugroschel, this is a great read.