Spring forward, fall back, and that day when the clocks return the hour they took away earlier in the year feels like a horse of a gift that must not be looked in the mouth.
This time round I decided to read a whole book in a day and there's really only one writer who I could think of who would fit the bill.
It suddenly needed to be someone who exuded a definitive sense of time and place, atmosphere and emotion and I felt a little smattering of autumnal mittel European melancholy was called for. Only one person in that case, and as I have plenty of Joseph Roth still to read he was an obvious choice.Thoughts about my introduction to the writing of Joseph Roth here and subsequently here , there and everywhere and I sense a hint of an addiction now I look at all those.
There are moments when only the strangely complex simplicity of Joseph Roth will do and as I scoured the shelves I settled on Job The Story of a Simple Man (translated with huge sensitivity by Dorothy Thompson) for my post-equinoxial and pre-solsticial read. As I turn the final page I'm lost for words again as was Thomas Mann, so I'm in good company and hardly dare tread where Thomas felt unable to.
'It is not possible to do justice to its poetic subtlety, but I can vouch for its extraordinary literary merits'
Mendel and Deborah Singer and their children live in abject poverty in the ghettos of Tsarist Russia. They are a law-abiding and god-fearing family, observant in the orthodoxies of the Jewish faith, allowing it to gently dictate the rhythms of their life. A fourth child Menachim is born and it soon becomes obvious that he has problems.Excruciatingly difficult decisions have to be made as they consider their future.
You will be hard-pushed to find a more emotionally laden book than this one. As the family finally make their way to the streets of New York, tragedy and misfortune strike one after another and, against a backdrop of a world at war, Mendel enters his own dark night of the soul and a conflict with his God.
By turns heartbreaking and uplifting this is one of those books that lingers long after the final turn of the page and to immerse myself in it in almost one sitting through a single day was a treasured reading experience, and it was still only 4pm when I had finished.
I must credit a reviewer on Amazon with the suggestion that the book ends at a point where you'd love it to carry on and I was so immersed in the Singer family that I'd happily read a whole saga on them. I was frequently reminded of Brothers by Bernice Rubens which is effectively exactly that, and for anyone who reads Job and then feels a vast sense of deprivation at the lack of another single page this would make the perfect anodyne.However ignore the first Amazon Brothers reviews, they have got themselves in the most unholy muddle with this book, it is indeed the saga of four generations of the Bindel family from Tsarist Russia.
The search is still on for a comprehensive and readable biography of Joseph Roth written in English, you may have told me before and I might not have been paying attention, but is there one?