Friday, January 27, 2012

Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters

Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters
Translated and Edited by Michael Hofmann
W. W. Norton & Company, Hardcover, 512 pages
ISBN-10: 0393060640 / ISBN-13: 978-0393060645

Albert Einstein to B. W. Huebsch
(24 February 1935)

Esteemed Mr. Hübsch,
I am truly grateful to you for sending me this consoling book [Job] by a real mensch and great writer. As I read it, I was able to share the pain of a clear and kindly human soul, inflicted upon it by the callousness and spiritual blindness of the present age, and felt myself strangely shriven by the sort of objective invention of which only an artistic genius is capable.

Friendly greetings from you [A. Eisntein]

P.S. Please forward this note to the respected author. You have my permission to use it to publicize the book in any way you see fit.
(Letter 328)

What emerges from these letters is a man constantly on the edge during troubled times. In many ways Roth reflects the turbulence of civilization coming apart at the seams. I’ve included a lot of excerpts from the Roth’s letters (and some to him) in the links below, trying to provide a flavor of his life as he described it. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, Roth was a very complex, flawed, gifted, and troubled man. Even if he exaggerated some of his troubles in these letters, it’s a wonder that his novels were written under such circumstances. The troubles he foretold for Europe, though, were often accurate. Roth’s life, reflected in these letters, shows the price of being an émigré, not just from a country but from the world at large.

Posts on Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters:

Some links to excerpts from the book
1911 – 1924
1925 – 1927
1927 – 1932
1934 – 1935
1935 - 1939

Books mentioned by Roth and Hofmann that I have queued up to read:
George Letham: Physician and Murdered by Ernst Weiss
The Thibaults by Roger Martin du Gard


Review by Tess Lewis in The Wall Street Journal

Review by Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set

Ian Thomson's review in The Telegraph

Michael Hofmann looks at the circumstances surrounding the writing of The Radetzky March as mentioned in these letters

Review in The Guardian

Amelia Atlas' review in The New York Times

Simon Schama's review in the Financial Times. Also mentioned is Wandering Jew: The Search for Joseph Roth by Dennis Marks

Literalab's interview with Dennis Marks regarding his book.

Review by Mark Falcoff in The Weekly Standard

Review by Roger Boylan in Boston Review

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