Joseph Roth was one of the foremost European writers of the 20th century, and he wrote one of the period’s greatest novels.
He wrote about the lost world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and of dispossessed people whose homeland was destroyed.
His journalism captured fleeting moments with universal implications, and the social conflict, cultural upheaval, and acceleration of the inter-war years.
A famously restless man, Roth lived out of three suitcases, preferring hotels because “to live in hotels is to become an international traveler whose allegiance is not to a country but to a condition.”
His best novel, The Radetzky March, captured the final years of Austria-Hungary, with all its maladministration, humanity, internationalism and stability.
He was one of Europe’s most highly paid journalists. But when Hitler was made chancellor of Germany in 1933, Roth was placed on the Nazi’s first list of prohibited writers and his writing was banned in German-speaking Europe.
Joseph Roth died of alcoholism at the age of 44, four months before the outbreak of the Second World War. His personal decline paralleled the collapse of the civilized world.
Roth’s biographer, Keiron Pim, joined me to talk about his life and work. Keiron is the author of Endless Flight: The Life of Joseph Roth, Jumpin’ Jack Flash: David Litvinoff and the Rock’n’Roll Underworld, and several popular science books on dinosaurs. You can read more about him on his website.
We spoke about perpetual movement, straddling borders, and the loss of a world.
These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:
- Endless Flight: The Life of Joseph Roth
- What I Saw: Reports from Berlin, 1920 – 1933
- The Hotel Years
- The Radetzky March
- Right and Left
- The Wandering Jews
- The Spider’s Web
- Weights and Measures
- The Legend of the Holy Drinker
- Confession of a Murderer