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Joseph Roth (1894-1939) was the great elegist of the cosmopolitan culture that flourished in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He published several books and articles before his untimely death at the age of 44. Roth's writing has been admired by J. M. Coetzee, Jeffrey Eugenides, Elie Wiesel, and Nadine Gordimer, among many others. For his translations, acclaimed poet Michael Hofmann has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Dublin International IMPAC Award, the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and The Schlegel-Tieck Prize (four times). He is the highly acclaimed translator of, among others, Kafka, Brecht, and Joseph Roth.
Published in 1927 but never translated into English, Roth's essays speak afresh in this rendering by the translator of four of his novels. Roth describes the experiences of Jews in order to explore solutions to the Jewish question, particularly the struggles regarding anti-Semitism and an allegiance strained between faith and country. Reflecting his travels, Roth creates affectionate portraits of individual Jews living across Europe. Communities in Berlin and Vienna receive emphasis, and there is an entire chapter about the Soviet Union's treatment of Jews. Roth denounces trust in assimilation, nationalism, and Western humanism. Instead, he advocates respect for Eastern Jews, who value spiritual and historical qualities that bind Jews together and supersede politics and culture. While Roth accepts Zionism as a response to anti-Semitism, he views it as only a partial solution. These essays represent a vivid, historically significant view of the Jewish experience, even though Roth often builds his points on sweeping generalizations about groups of people, cities, or even countries. Another related, recently published work is Ritchie Robertson's The Jewish Question in German Literature, 1749-1939: Emancipation and Its Discontents (Oxford Univ., 1999). Recommended for specialized collections and academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]ÄMarianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.