Monthly Archives: December 2014

Vier Gedichte von Alexander Baytoshev



вратите са отворени –
тук е за вас.
Ще се видят
странните ви усмивки.
по ръбовете на живота,
ще сте добре,
забравили всички.
На това място
няма да би задават въпроси.
Пустините и улиците,
разрушените апартаменти
и счупените пейки –
храмовете на света,
бедни са
без вас –
тук сте сами
и вратите са отворени.
Die Türen
die türen sind offen –
tretet ein,
hier ist euer platz.
Man wird euer
seltsames lächeln sehen.
an den rändern des lebens,
es wird euch gut gehen,
vergessen werdet ihr alle sein.
An diesem platz
werden keine fragen gestellt.
Die wüsten und straßen,
die zerstörten wohnungen
und zerbrochenen bänke –
tempel der welt,
arm sind sie
ohne euch –
hier seid ihr allein
und die türen sind offen.

когато им е трудно,
с поглед на изплашен
интелигентен стоик.
Не знаят нищо –
но предчустват.
Без тяло,
когато опашката е долу,
пресичат на зелено,
понякога пътуват
в градски транспорт.
Най-добре ме видят
с периферното си зрение.
Всичко дарят под око.
Прибират ги на топка
с лопати,                    
преди да спрат
последното скимтене.


Sie schweigen
wenn sie es schwer haben,
mit dem blick eines erschreckten
intelligenten stoikers.
Sie wissen nichts –
haben aber vorahnungen.
Wenn der schwanz gesenkt ist,
überqueren sie die strasse bei grün
benutzen manchmal
den öffentlichen nahverkehr.
Am besten sehen sie mich
aus ihren augenwinkeln heraus.
Allem schenken sie beachtung.
Als haufen weggeräumt
mit schaufeln,
vor dem ende
das letzte jaulen. 

Кратко стихотворение за любовта
Бих искал да ти подаря нещо
но нямам нищо.
Остана ми една здрава връзка от обувка.
Само ако ти я подаря,
ще бъда свободен.
Знам, че не харесваш връзки от обувки.
Представи си, че е нещо друго.
Представи си, че съм аз.
Kurzes gedicht über die liebe
Ich möchte dir etwas schenken
aber ich habe nichts.
Es bleibt mir ein starkes schuhband.
Nur wenn ich es dir schenke,
werde ich frei sein.
Ich weiß, dass du keine schuhbänder magst.
Stell dir vor, dass es etwas anderes ist.
Stell dir vor, dass ich es bin.

Едно куче
Опустошавам мислите с ръкомахания
После хващам пътя
с повече бръчки по очите.
Ще се върна
да разкажа.
Ein hund
Ich lasse meine gedanken mit gesten aus
Nehme dann die fährte
mit noch mehr falten um die augen auf.

Ich werde wiederkommen
um zu berichten.

Alexander Baytoshev: Kucheta (Александър Байтошев: Кучета), Janet45, Plovdiv 2014
Aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

© Alexander Baytoshev and ИК Жанет45
© Thomas Hübner and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Who Is Martha?

When the family doctor calls on a Sunday with urgent news, it means usually no good news. The news are indeed so bad that Luka Levadski, the hero of Who Is Martha? has to go to the bathroom and throw up – for the first time since ages.

“The last time it had happened to him, he had still been wearing knickers. What had the girl’s name been? Maria? Sophia? The young girl had allowed her hand to be kissed by a man with a moustache. In front of her a slice of cake. Jealousy had grabbed the schoolboy Levadski by the throat. He had stopped in front of the window of the cafe, taken a bow and spilled the contents of his stomach onto the pavement. Touching his chest, he’d slowly assumed an upright position again.”

The cancer diagnosis for the 96-year old Professor emeritus Luka Levadski, a capacity in the field of ornithology, is certainly devastating for him, but since he lives alone and is without relatives or close friends, it is not an event that makes the world turn upside down at his age. Consulting the shelf with the medical books in his private library, he is considering his situation:

“Cyclophosphamide, sounds like a criminal offense…checks the multiplication of rapidly dividing cells. Side effects: nausea, vomiting, hair loss. May damage the nerves and kidneys and lead to loss of hearing, as well as an irreparable loss of motor function; suppresses bone marrow, can cause anemia and blindness. Well, Bon appetit. Levadski would have liked to call the doctor and chirp down the line.





If the doctor had asked him what this was supposed to be, Levadski would have stuck with the truth: A female pygmy owl attracting its mate, you idiot! And hung up. He felt like a real rascal. At the age of ninety-six Levadski was game for playing a prank.”

For Levadski, the decision is obvious: he will have none of these life-prolonging treatments and will die in style. He will buy a walking stick, an elegant new suit and hat, pull a few strings to get a passport and a visa for Vienna quickly and – thanks to the money in his bank account he got for his decades of publishing articles such as On the Red-Backed Shrike’s Humane Art of Impaling Insects and Large Prey on Thorns, or How Global Warming Alters Fish Stocks and Turns North Sea Birds into Cannibals in Western journals – is going on a visit to this place that is filled with childhood memories. Especially the regular visits of the Musikverein with his grand-aunts and the concerts there that, together with the piano lessons of his mother created a second lifelong passion in him: music.

While preparing for his last journey – he has no intention to come back to his flat in Lemberg (Lviv) – we get to know this remarkable person better. Levadski, son of two bird lovers had not an easy but an interesting life: born on the eve of the outbreak of WWI and on the same day when Martha, the last of a rare and now extinct species of passenger pigeons passed on in 1914, he survived two utopias (Austro-Hungary and the Soviet Union), a childhood overshadowed by the early suicide of his father, the war, exile in the mountains of Chechnya and later Siberia, and finally a late career as a professor with international recognition. It was a rather lonely life since Levadski never developed a deep relationship with the female sex:

“That he had a long time ago thought of winning over the opposite sex with his pathetic behavior, when his head had been filled with nothing but the mating dances and brooding habits of birds, was something he did not want to be reminded about. But he did think about it, he thought about it with a hint of bitterness. After a fulfilling academic life he knew: Women would have interested him more if they hadn’t constantly insisted on emphasizing that they were different from men. If they had been like female birds, a touch grayer and quieter than the males, perhaps they would have awakened his interest at the right time. Levadski would gladly have procreated with such a creature. Only he didn’t know to what purpose.”

The second half of the book sees Levadski in his new, last home: an old luxury hotel in Vienna, just around the corner of the Musikverein. We see him enjoying the big bath, bigger than his flat in Lemberg, we see him making acquaintances – with a taxi driver from the Ivory Coast who shares Levadski’s love of the German language; with a cheerful chamber maid from Novi Pazar, a small Balkan town; with Habib, the kind and music-loving Palestinian butler; with another old hotel guest, Mr. Witzturn with whom he is developing a kind of friendship culminating in a joint concert visit at the Musikverein followed by an evening in the hotel bar where they talk their mind about the meaning of life, friendship, and the advantages of gin as a basis to various cocktails.

In the end, Levadski looks back without bitterness. He re-discovered parts of his ego that seemed to be lost a long time ago; memories of happy moments with his parents come back; and he realizes that the gift to make friends even at an old age in the face of the end of his life makes it possible to cross barriers – physical one’s like borders, but also invisible one’s that are imposed to us by society, upbringing or our own prejudices. Or, as Levadski explains on the phone to a young intern of the Konrad Lorenz Institute:

“Barriers, barriers, barriers, you see, Madam, human beings are forever being confronted with limitations, internal or external. Sometimes the shoes are too tight, sometimes the coffin too close, do you understand what I mean?”

Luka Levadski finally breaks the barriers. And he even remembers the name of the girl he thought he had forgotten.

Who Is Martha? is a wonderful book. It is well-written, very entertaining and I read it two times in a row. It breathes sadness, wisdom, humor, and a deep human sympathy for its protagonist and people in general – they are not so different from birds, so they deserve that for sure would Professor Levadski probably say.

Marjana Gaponenko is a young author from Odessa who writes in German – what a great gift to the German language! Who Is Martha? was a big surprise for me and arguably the best book I read in 2014.

A word about the English edition: the translation by Arabella Spencer reads very smoothly and close to the original. New Vessel Press, a small American publisher with an extremely interesting program of translated fiction, is to be congratulated – this book will hopefully gain many readers and the attention it deserves. Also the cover is beautiful.  A pleasure to have this book in hands.

I won the review copy of this book in the framework of the Wednesdays-are-wunderbar events of my blogger colleague Lizzy as part of the activities related to the German Literature Month. I am very grateful to have been provided with a copy of this amazing novel.


Marjana Gaponenko: Who Is Martha?, translated by Arabella Spencer, New Vessel Press, New York 2014


© Thomas Hübner and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Drei Gedichte von Vladislav Hristov



цял ден мета                                                                   
един огромен паркинг
листопадът е в разгара си
не бива да се обръщам назад
да гледам как капят
проклетите листа
германците са учтиви хора
ще кажат довечера
о хер христов
чудесно сте измели
елате утре
половин час

den ganzen tag kehre ich
einen riesigen parkplatz
das fallen der blätter ist in vollem gange
ich sollte mich nicht umdrehen
um mir anzusehen wie
das verdammte laub fällt
die deutschen sind höfliche leute
am abend werden sie sagen
oh herr hristov
grossartig haben sie gekehrt
kommen sie morgen
eine halbe stunde


кучетата ги облякоха
с вълнени пуловери
моя съм го забравил
в българия

es ist kalt geworden
die hunde sind bekleidet
mit wollenen pullovern
meinen habe ich vergessen
in bulgarien


на 2000 километра оттук
доматите зреят
първите череши
вече са на пазара
слънцето влиза
в детската ми стая
през прозореца
който майка всяка сутрин

2000 kilometer von hier
reifen die tomaten
die ersten kirschen
sind schon auf dem markt
die sonne kehrt ein
in mein kinderzimmer
durchs fenster
das mutter jeden morgen

aus: Vladislav Hristov: Germanii (Владислав Христов: Германии), Ergo, Sofia 2014;  aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner


© Vladislav Christov and Ergo Books, 2014.
© Thomas Hübner and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

German Literature Month – Wrap-up



November and the first days of December saw a co-ordinated effort of many book bloggers that participated in the fourth edition of German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline and Lizzy. It was a great and overwhelming experience.

As for my own rather ambitious reading and reviewing plans, I managed to read all the books I had originally on my list plus a few more that caught my attention in the last moment. However, since the writing of a review in a foreign language takes quite some time for me and I don’t want to hasten things, I was lagging behind a bit regarding the publication of the forecasted reviews. Additionally I had to travel abroad several times – traveling seems to be for me a good time for reading, but not the perfect time to write reviews. 

Out of the nine books on my TBR list I published seven reviews in time plus one additional for a new book that has not yet been translated but deserves a swift publication in English and other languages. The missing reviews will follow very soon.

What is my experience with this event?

First, it was a lot of work but also a lot of fun. I made the decision to embark on a rather ambitious personal program and this turned out to be the most busy month so far in my blogging “career”. Nevertheless I never had the feeling that it was stress or that I regretted for a moment my rather big-mouthed announcement at the beginning of German Lit Month. I thoroughly enjoyed the process to devote a whole month to German-language literature and I was extremely delighted that not only such a big number of other book bloggers participated but also their choice of books and the tremendous quality of the output was truly amazing me.

Second, while reading and reviewing books is usually a solitary experience, this one was a community experience. Checking on a daily basis what my colleagues are reading, going through their thoughtful and erudite reviews, commenting on some of them or reading comments to my own posts, made me feel to be part of a group who shares the same interest, the same passion for literature. This experience to be part of a community was – beside the possibility to discover new authors or re-discover titles I had read before and comparing my own opinion with that of other reviewers – the most exciting aspect of this month for me.

Third, I realized that such an event needs time to grow. Since it was organized for the fourth time, it is already a kind of well-established event that seems to draw each year more interest from the readers and the blogger community. This is only possible since the two heads and hearts behind this event, Caroline and Lizzy, do a lot of background work that I really very much appreciate. This includes not only the lobbying for participation of readers and bloggers but also contacting publishers, setting up a website for this event (which I find extremely useful).

Fourth, I tried to follow the other participants’ posts as good as possible and left also some comments. But I still have to follow up some of the posts and will try to read all reviews because I enjoyed really each single opinion. There is such a big variety of individual voices among the book bloggers that I very frequently discover aspects in these reviews that make me see a book in a slightly different light. What better could be said about this event? 

Fifth, I am very happy and a bit embarrassed too that one of my posts was singled out by Caroline as “Best Post” – thank you so much and the titles of the two books I won sound very appealing: Just Call Me Superhero and The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky. I guess I had a little newcomer bonus since the quality of many posts was outstanding and would have deserved the prize too!

To sum it up: a great experience – and I am already waiting for German Literature Month 2015. Thanks to Caroline and Lizzy as hosts, and to all participants who made this such a terrific event!

© Thomas Hübner and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplicationof this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Kraus Project


This review is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen is a hybrid book.

It contains on the upper part of each page on the left side the original German text of four essays and a poem by the Austrian author Karl Kraus, mirrored by the English translation of the respective text on the opposite right page.

On the lower part of each page are numerous footnotes that are sometimes longer than Kraus’ text itself.  The footnotes are partly by Jonathan Franzen, partly by the Kraus scholar Paul Reitter, partly by the German-Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann, like Franzen an admirer of Kraus. Franzen is also the translator of Kraus’ texts.

Since Karl Kraus is almost unknown in the English-speaking world, the publisher obviously thought it a good idea to bring this book on the market with Jonathan Franzen as author on the title page. But again, this book is a translated and annotated collection of some of Kraus’ texts.

A few words about Karl Kraus:

coming from a wealthy assimilated Jewish family, Kraus grew up in Vienna at the end of the 19th century. Vienna was at that time a melting pot of people and ideas. Literature and theater (two lifelong passions of Kraus) were at its height, Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis that revolutionized later many aspects of our lives, Mahler and Schönberg revolutionized music, Adolf Loos, Kraus closest friend revolutionized architecture, the Vienna school of economists revolutionized economics, the Vienna Circle and Ludwig Wittgenstein revolutionized philosophy. All kind of modern ideologies came to light in that period in Vienna, including the “modern” racial Antisemitism and its natural reaction, Zionism, whose main propagandist was the journalist Theodor Herzl, a former colleague of Kraus who would become one of his most hated targets.

“Vienna’s streets are paved with culture; the streets of other capitals are paved with asphalt”,

is a popular aphorism by Kraus.

In this hotbed of culture and ideologies the typical Kaffeehauskultur developed where each faction of intellectuals had their favorite coffeehouses where they met and engaged in group and cartel building, gossiping, writing and reading. Kraus was part of this culture, but never belonged to any group. One of his most remarkable features is that he successfully obtained his absolute independence during all his intellectual life.

Kraus’ main “work” are the roughly 40,000 pages of his journal Die Fackel (The Torch), which he published between 1899 and 1936. In the first years, he admitted every now and then guest authors but from 1912 on, he wrote the journal exclusively by himself.

Die Fackel had a blog-like feel: Kraus’ was publishing whenever he had something to say and about whatever he felt he needed something to say. Although literature and theater were always prominent topics in Die Fackel, Kraus was an avid reader of the Austrian and foreign press – and from here he took most of his inspirations.

Kraus was writing about foreign and local policy, about the situation of workers in the factories, about women’s rights, he was an early advocate of equal rights of homosexuals, and he was an everyday observer of the journalism in Austria, which was in an extremely bad shape according to Kraus.

This opposition to the frequently badly written journalism made Kraus many enemies, especially since he combined it with irony and sarcasm, but also with undeniable truths. His lawyer was for sure a very busy man and it is said that Kraus won almost all his court cases. He knew the rules and acted within these rules very efficiently to expose corruption, nepotism, stupidity and wrong use of language.

He did all this in a unique style, frequently playing with words and creating a richness of aphorisms that may be rivaled only by Lichtenberg. He was also a stage persona: he gave more than 700 performances reading, singing, acting alone on a stage – his audience consisted mainly of addicted Kraus fans; Elias Canetti for example said in his autobiography that he visited more than 300 of Kraus’ unique performances. Kraus must have been a magnetic personality that had many people under his spell.

The two main pieces in The Kraus Project are Kraus’ most famous essays on the German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine and on the Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy.

Heine is for Kraus on the one hand a great and extremely popular poet. Many of his poems were turned into popular songs and are part of the folk poetry. But Heine’s followers turn his spirit into something superficial. And this is not by accident, it is because of specific virtues in Heine’s works. In Kraus’ times there was a firm belief of many intellectuals that there was a deep difference between Romance and German culture. As Kraus put it:

Two strains of intellectual vulgarity: defenselessness against content and defenselessness against form. The one experiences only the material side of art. It is of German origin. The other experiences even the rawest of materials artistically. It is of Romance origin. To the one, art is an instrument; to the other, life is an ornament. In which hell would the artist prefer to fry? He’d surely still rather live among the Germans. For although they’ve strapped art into the Procrustean Folding Bed of their commerce, they’ve also made life sober, and this is a blessing: fantasy thrives, and every man can put his own light in the barren window frames. Just spare me the pretty ribbons!…”

Austria, although linguistically part of German culture, is for Kraus deeply affected by the “French” poet Heine. Even the biggest Anti-semites “forgave” Heine his Jewish origin, just because his verses appeal so much to the tendency of most of the Vienna literati to gloss over everything with patches of jokes and irony. (I owe The Kraus Project the information that young Adolf Hitler in his Vienna years supported an initiative to build a monument for Heine – Heine’s poems were later not removed from the school books in Nazi Germany, just his name; it was all supposed to be “folk poetry” then).

While the Heine essay is very acerbic in it’s evaluation of the poems of this great German writer, the big hater Kraus shows in the other main essay that he can be also a great admirer and lover: he re-discovers the Austrian actor, singer, playwright Johann Nestroy, a popular performer of the first part of the 19th century who fell into oblivion soon after his death.

That Nestroy is nowadays considered to be one of the greatest authors for theater in German  is almost exclusively a result of the decades of Kraus’ efforts to make him again popular. I love Nestroy’s plays, and there is hardly anything (with the exception of Shakespeare, and the obscure play Datterich by Ernst Elias Niebergall, written in Darmstadt dialect) that I enjoy more on a stage than his plays. To me, the Nestroy essay is Kraus’s best essay – the Heine piece, although very interesting, shows also a side of Kraus that is not very appealing: the text is not free from Anti-semitic slurs.

Franzen’s translation is a heroic and brave effort and mostly very decent in my opinion. Kraus is extremely difficult to translate and that he tackled this task deserves a lot of respect.

The footnotes are frequently related directly to the text. Paul Reitter adds a lot of his knowledge about Kraus, much to the profit of the reader. Also many of Franzen’s and Kehlmann’s footnotes are interesting. The one thing that surprised me was that Franzen is dragging the reader a lot into his personal life during the time he lived in Germany and Austria as a student. We learn many details about the person Jonathan Franzen, including the story of his failed first marriage, and a short bout of mental illness when he was in Germany. If you like Jonathan Franzen as an author (I do), you might as well enjoy this part of the annotations, but if not you will have to skip some of them. I am still wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to split the book in two: a translation of Kraus only, and a longer essay with Franzen’s view of Kraus.

Kraus was a larger-than-life author. His play Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (The Last Days of Mankind) is about 800 pages long. The Kraus Project gives some insight in part of his work, but those who would like to discover the full Kraus and also the Vienna of his times (because most of his work can be only understood from the context) should maybe read in parallel also Carl Schorske’s excellent book Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture.

Let me close with a poem by Karl Kraus in which he explains why he kept silent for a long time after the Nazis took power in Germany:

Let no one ask what I’ve been doing since I spoke.
I have nothing to say
and won’t say why.
And there’s stillness since the earth broke.
No word was right;
a man speaks only from his sleep at night.
And dreams of a sun that joked.
It passes; and later
it didn’t matter.
The Word went under when that world awoke,

Man frage nicht, was all die Zeit ich machte.
Ich bleibe stumm;
und sage nicht, warum.
Und Stille gibt es, da die Erde krachte.
Kein Wort, das traf;
man spricht nur aus dem Schlaf.
Und träumt von einer Sonne, welche lachte.
Es geht vorbei;
nachher war’s einerlei.
Das Wort entschlief, als jene Welt erwachte.


Jonathan Franzen: The Kraus Project, Fourth Estate, London 2013

Carl Emil Schorske: Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, Vintage 1980

© Thomas Hübner and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tschick or Why We Took the Car


This review is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

Usually I am not quoting from book blurbs. But in this specific case, I’ll gladly make an exception:

Joseph Roth’s Rebellion


This review is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

Joseph Roth is nowadays mostly known as a literary fiction writer but in the 1920s and early 1930s his reputation as one of the most prolific journalists was outshining even his fame as a novelist. To those who want to get to know the full Roth, I recommend therefore his journalistic work; frequently he touches issues in his articles that he later on used as material or inspiration for his literary prose.

Roth was best when it came to social issues, to the living conditions of the ordinary, mostly poor population of Austria, Germany, France, and the other countries he visited. He wrote for example several long pieces for the Frankfurter Zeitung and the socialist Vorwärts about the fate and the living conditions of the crippled and physically handicapped ex-soldiers of WWI – if you know the artwork of Otto Dix or George Grosz you know how terribly millions of men were mutilated for the rest of their mostly miserable lives.

One such victim of WWI is Andreas Pum, the central figure of Rebellion, the novel that was also first printed in Vorwärts before a book edition was published. Andreas lost a leg in the war, but he seems strangely happy. Not only has he survived, he also got a medal (one of those pieces of metal that governments are quick to hand out) and a license to play a barrel organ and so he can make a living from the few coins he gets from the people listening to his repertoire. To him that is fair enough.

Andreas is a simple, uneducated man. He doesn’t reflect his situation and those war cripples that complain about their fate or the lack of support from the government, he considers as malingerers and thieves. Andreas is at this stage the complete negation of the rebel. He just wishes to improve his life a bit and to have a wife and family. A good fate – so it seems to Andreas – sends him a widow whose plump forms attract him and soon he moves in to the widow’s house and can enjoy the life of a husband. He loves the widow’s daughter like his own child and even for Muli, the small donkey that carries his barrel organ, he has tender and friendly feelings. Andreas is a kind man.

Everything could be perfect for Andreas, but one day he is being insulted by a rude passenger in the tram, one word gives another and the verbal argument is followed by physical violence. A policeman is soon on the scene and Andreas will be held responsible by the court for his violent behavior. How Andreas becomes – just by coincidence and certain unpredictable events in combination with the vileness of the public organs such as the police – a victim of a system that always holds people like Andreas down, shows Joseph Roth’s mastery and also his sympathy with people like Andreas, who are always the victims. And who usually even don’t remark it.

To read how Andreas is going through a real ordeal is depressing; although he is just 45 years old, he looks with his completely white hair already like a very old man; but the more he is physically degrading, the more conscious he becomes about his real situation, the more he becomes a rebel – a person who disagrees with the order of things.

When I read the book, I realized that there were certain elements you can find also in most other of Roth’s novels and long stories: the main character slips down like on an inclined plane, the physical degradation corresponds with an awakening in terms of self-consciousness and acts of rebellion (like not praying to God anymore), and the tone of the narrative is always close to the legend. The similarities to Job and Legend of a Holy Drinker in this respect are particularly stunning.

Rebellion might not be the best novel of Joseph Roth, but I found it well written and touching. For those who are familiar with Roth’s oeuvre it will be particularly interesting how in this early work he prefigured many topics and tropes that he was also using in his most mature works of the late 1920s and 1930s.


Joseph Roth: Rebellion, transl. by Michael Hofmann, Picador 2000

© Thomas Hübner and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.