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Roth, Joseph


ROTH, JOSEPH (1894–1939), Austrian novelist. Born near Brody in East Galicia, Roth volunteered for service in the Austrian army during World War i. He became an officer and was captured by the Russians. His subsequent career was in journalism and for a decade from 1923 he worked for the Frankfurter Zeitung. He fought for a new humanism and was a strenuous opponent of German militarism. Roth left his adopted country when Hitler came to power in 1933. Much of his restless life was spent abroad and he finally sought refuge in Paris where in a fit of depression he tried to commit suicide and died in a hospital for the poor.

Apart from many newspaper articles and short stories, Roth wrote 14 novels, notable for their lucid style. At first a psychological realist in the tradition of Stendhal and Dostoevsky, Roth was later influenced by the Viennese impressionists such as H. von *Hofmannsthal and A. *Schnitzler. Always affected by the sufferings of others, Roth projected reco llections of his own unhappy and impoverished youth into his best-known novel, Hiob (1930; Job, 1931), which describes the bitter life of an East European Jewish family. Other novels, such as Die Flucht ohne Ende (1927) and Rechts und Links (1929), depict the social consequences of war and the decomposition of the old order through revolution and inflation. His last novel, Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker (1939), is a kind of self-portrait and reflects some of the author's own disappointments. The essays of Juden auf Wanderschaft (1927) deal with the social position of East European Jewry. A different atmosphere prevails in Roth's historical novels. The best known of these, Radetzkymarsch (1932), nostalgically portrays Austria and the imperial army under Franz Joseph. Three other novels were Die hundert Tage (1936), Die Geschichte von der 1002. Nacht (1939), and Der Leviathan (1940). Years after his death, Der stumme Prophet, a work full of forebodings about totalitarianism, appeared in 1966. Roth's collected works were published with an introduction by Hermann *Kesten (3 vols., 1956). Roth gained belated recognition as one of Austria's outstanding novelists.


H. Linden, Joseph Roth, Leben und Werk (1949); H. Kesten, Meine Freunde die Poeten (1953), 167–99; A. Werner, in: Jewish Outlook (Feb. 1942), 7–9; Kinn, in: Tribune, 5 (1966), 2063–66; H. Kesten (ed.), Joseph Roth: Briefe 1911–1939 (1970).

[Rudolf Kayser]

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