“Prussia, the ruler of Germany, was always an enemy of the intellect, of books, of the Book of Books—that is, the Bible—of Jews and Christians, of humanism and Europe. Hitler’s Third Reich is only so alarming to the rest of Europe because it sets itself to put into action what was always the Prussian project anyway: to burn the books, to murder the Jews, and to revise Christianity." Joseph Roth, 1933"
Works I Have So Far Read for German Literature Month, November, 2017
- “You’d Have Larvae Too” by Nora Wagener, 2016
- Vertigo by W. G. Sebald, 1990
- The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter, 2006
- “An Earthquake in Chile” by Heinrich Von Kleist, 1809
- Who is Martha? by Marjana Gaponenko, 2012
- “The Legal Haziness of Marriage” by Olga Grjasnowa, 2015
- “Aladdin, COB” by Isabelle Lehn, 2015
- “The Last Bell” by Johannes Urzidil, 1968
- The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald, 1995
- Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler, written 1892, published 2016
- Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffner, 1933
- Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, 1929
- Confessions of a Murderer by Joseph Roth, 1936
During German Literature Month November 2013 I read my first work by Joseph Roth, his acknowledged by all masterwork, Radetzky’s March. He is now one of my “read all I can authors”. I have posted upon eight of his novels, three novellas, three collections of essays, and two short stories. Roth was at one time the highest paid journalist in Europe. His essays are gems, a delight to read. (1894 to 1939, Roth died before the Holocaust had truly begun but he saw it coming. The Nazis burned his books.. There is bio data in my prior Posts.)
Confessions of a Murderer is set in a Paris cafe, one for serious drinkers, a venue Roth knew well. An older Russian exile (there is a great essay on Russians in Paris in Hotel Years) is known among other Russian habitué of the cafe as “The Murder”. A journalist, having a late night drink, asks the man why he is referred to in such a fashion. He begins a very long tale, starting in Czarist Russia with a claim that his real father was not his forester father but a count who had an affair with his mother. This belief, it might be true, sets off a course of events that dominated his life. He becomes a member of The Czarist Secret Police, assigned to protect the Czar from assisination. I found Roth’s account of the workings and corruption of the Secret Police fascinating.
The novel is a bit of a potboiler, O.K. a lot of one, at this point in his life Roth needed income, it goes as far as it could in depicting sex and really is quite exciting. Roth is letting us see the consequences of the decline of the old empires.
It has been compared to Conrad’s Secret Agent and to some of the work of Dostoevsky.
I would say first read Radetsky’s March, then the sequel to this, The Emperor’s Tomb and then my sentimental favorite Hotel Savoy. My guess is by then you will be hooked on Roth. Roth is as smart as they come.