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22gigantes.com - A journey through the past and present of Europe's eastern borderlands in search of one of Austria's most seductive and disturbing 20th Century writers. Traveller, prophet, perpetual displaced person and compulsive liar, Joseph Roth's fiction and journalism embody a world twice destroyed but still strangely with us in the new millennium. In Austria and Ukraine, Dennis Marks explores the spiritual geography of a still neglected master.
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Most helpful customer reviews 3 of 3 people found the following review helpful. Insights into one of the most remarkable authors of the past century By R. M. Peterson One of the significant literary discoveries for me in the past decade has been Joseph Roth. I believe him to be one of the great authors of the twentieth century and of all twentieth-century authors perhaps THE most fascinating as a man. Even though I may be somewhat more receptive to WANDERING JEW: THE SEARCH FOR JOSEPH ROTH than the average reader, I nonetheless think it would be a rewarding book for anyone who has read some of Roth's works and been intrigued by them.Dennis Marks was introduced to Joseph Roth in the course of researching a film for the BBC about Vienna, in connection with which he read Roth's masterpiece "The Radetzky March". As he learned more about Roth, he became increasingly curious about him, so that eventually he undertook a "search" for Joseph Roth, touring through what once was the Austro-Hungarian Empire to learn as much as he could about Roth. WANDERING JEW is the result of his search. It is not a biography of Roth. It, instead, is a profile of the man, coupled with an overview of his written work and an assessment of its place in the literature and the history (and even the geography) of twentieth-century Europe.Marks's search for Joseph Roth was made more daunting by its subject: "In [Roth's] diaries and letters, in his reported conversations and his confessional journalism, he scattered falsehoods like a Ruthenian peasant sowing corn. As a novelist he constantly blurs historical truth and hallucination." Moreover, Roth was from easternmost Galicia, and hence the easternmost extent of the Habsburg Empire, on the border between Austria-Hungary and Russia. Today, his hometown is in the Republic of the Ukraine. "Ukraine", in the local Slavic vernacular, means "at the border". "It is neither in one place nor another. Ukraine is one of the most displaced places in Europe and Joseph Roth was its unreliable laureate."Joseph Roth left Galicia at the age of twenty, and he spent the last twenty-five years of his life wandering throughout Europe. He was "the archetypal displaced person". He also was steadfastly opposed to nationalism and the political movements it spawned. He "believed passionately that the future of Mitteleuropa was multicultural", and he valued the Habsburg Empire for permitting that multiculturalism, even as the Empire decayed from within. He was an Ostjuden, but he was not a Zionist; to the contrary, he saw Zionism as yet another version of the nationalism he abhorred. "In rejecting a Jewish state in Israel he is anything but a self-hating Jew. He is embracing the traditional values of the Jewish diaspora as practiced in the eastern borderlands. * * * To create a Jewish state was to deny Jewish history." Joseph Roth often was startlingly prescient, and as a thinker he was his own man. He also was a man of contradictions, and his works and characters are as paradoxical as their creator.In WANDERING JEW, Dennis Marks explores the above themes. In the course of doing so, he touches upon virtually all of Roth's books, but the ones to which he devotes the most attention are "The Radetzky March", "The Emperor's Tomb" (also known as "The Capuchin Crypt"), and "The Wandering Jews" (a collection of essays on the displaced and unwanted Jews of eastern Europe, written well before the Shoah). The book is exceedingly rich for its 132 pages, and it is quite well-written. Based on my reading of Roth over the past five or six years, I believe Marks has succeeded admirably in locating his subject.WANDERING JEW should not be one's introduction to Joseph Roth. Newcomers to the man should simply take the plunge and immerse themselves in "The Radetzky March" (it actually is relatively short for one of the classics of world literature). After reading it, they should proceed to "The Emperor's Tomb" and perhaps even to "The Wandering Jews" before turning to this book, which will then greatly enhance their appreciation of one of the most remarkable authors of the past century. 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful. A magnificent and moving analysis of Roth's thoughts By Ralph Blumenau In my review of David Bronsen's "Joseph Roth", I said that no biography was yet available in English. Now we have an English-language commentary of Roth's life, just 132 pages long, beautifully written and published attractively by Notting Hill Editions. For the purpose of this book Dennis Marks is himself, in a sense, a wandering Jew, for its framework is his physical journey to places associated with Joseph Roth, and the map at the beginning of the book shows his own itinerary through the former Habsburg Empire rather showing the many places in Eastern, Central and Western Europe (always in hotels) in which Roth lived in the course of his life.The book is not a chronological account of Roth's life, whose main events are only touched on. Rather its main purpose, beautifully fulfilled, is to analyze the themes in Roth's books; and there is also much historical background and much musing by Marks about the history and consequences of nationalism, right up to the present day.The first chapter relates the difficulty of pinning down Roth's ever-shifting utterances about his origin and opinions to that of pinning down the frontiers of the area in which he was born. In Roth's lifetime his birthplace of Brody was successively part of the Habsburg province of Galicia, of a short-lived Ukrainian Republic, then of Poland (and it would after that become successively part of the Soviet Union and once again of the Ukraine.) All this reinforced Roth's feeling, ever since the break-up of the Habsburg Empire (much beloved by him in retrospect, though he was always aware of its archaic nature, picking away at its absurdities "like a scab"), that he really had no home, and therefore a very weak sense of identity, certainly no sense of national identity and a very ambivalent attitude about his Jewish identity. He had chosen Austrian citizenship in 1919, and even that vanished with the Anschluss.The second chapter mostly analyzes Roth's attitude to the Habsburg Empire, and contrasts it with that of his contemporary Robert Musil.In the third chapter Marks discusses the themes of displacement and statelessness which figure so prominently in Roth's work, and Marks points out that he was portraying not only his own condition, but that of millions (four to five million, according to Eric Hobsbawm) immediately after the First World War, with more to come ever since. Even the soldiers who return home from the battlefields often find their home has become an alien place.The next chapter examines Roth's attitude to Judaism. He is intimately familiar with the lives and culture, admirable as well as less admirable, of the poor East European Jews who figure prominently in his books; but we are not to think that he sees himself as one of them (except as a displaced person - and then he thinks of himself as belonging to the host of displaced persons in general, rather than as a displaced Jew). Though Roth observed rather than lived a Jewish life, though he claimed at times to have converted to Catholicism, though he detested Zionism as just another nationalism with all the militarism he foresaw that it would involve, Marks disagrees with those commentators who have applied to him "the irritating phrase `self-denying Jew'".In his final chapter Marks comments on the strange fact that, whereas the fighting on the Western front and the subsequent history of Germany has inspired countless "legendary accounts", the fighting on the Eastern Front and the subsequent history of the area that was once the Habsburg Empire has attracted only two great writers: the journalist John Reed and the journalist and novelist Joseph Roth. He provides no explanation for this. Instead the chapter ends with a magnificent analysis of one of Roth's last works, The Emperor's Tomb (Die Kapuzinergruft) which is an elegiac coda to his most famous work, The Radetzky March. 0 of 1 people found the following review helpful. A vanity project with little extra value By surfreider Dennis Marks does not add much about Joseph Roth who is just as unfathomable at the end as at the start. Simon Schama has written an appreciation (found elsewhere on the internet) that is more satisfying. See all 3 customer reviews...
About the Author For thirty years Dennis Marks was an acclaimed television producer and broadcast executive. His career ranged from directing cultural and historical documentaries to a seven year span as Head of Music for BBCTV. During this time he was also president of the Vienna based music and media organisation IMZ. From 1993 to 1997 he was General Director of English National Opera. In 1998, he returned to broadcasting, producing and directing for television and writing and presenting major events and historical documentaries for BBC Radio, including three series on European history. He is currently developing new radio documentaries and two further books.
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