I knew you wouldn't be cross about a little detour, wouldn't begrudge me a moment of reading indulgence.
How could I leave Europe without a last Joseph Roth to see me on my way?
Michael Hofmann reveals in his introduction to Rebellion that all fifteen of Joseph Roth's novels are finally translated into English and available. Not all in a matching set because the publishers are various.
I've been swathed in Max Sebald's melancholy wanderings but surprisingly they don't leave me feeling weighed down under a burden of persecution and misery. There must be a lightness to Sebald's step because it doesn't depress me, in fact quite the opposite. There is something strangely uplifting about his writing that I haven't quite put my finger on yet.
Perhaps it's the way Max Sebald ignites my own trains of thought to follow and meander off from his own?
A catalyst for all sorts of diversions and I think it may be the imagination that is fired on all cylinders, permission granted by Sebald to wander off and explore in a new light? Terry Pitts has certainly proved this over at Vertigo and I now see exactly how, because I find one Sebald suggestion can lead to hours of focused thinking, reading and listening.
Anyway I could afford a bit of Rothian mittel-European melancholy that was for sure, except that Rebellion is for the first two thirds at least Joseph Roth with his laughing hat on.
It's hardly funny that Andreas Pum has returned from the Great War with half a leg missing and only a medal and a permit to play the hurdy gurdy on street corners to show for it.He is effectively licensed to beg and that's what he proceeds to do whilst pondering that really what he needs to do is find himself a wife.
The wife and child is duly appropriated with unseemly haste from a widowhood of just days with an emotional rendition of Lorelei beneath her window.Perhaps Andreas should have been on his guard with that first gift from the plump and lovely Frau Blumich.
A donkey to help you tow your barrel organ around perhaps not the best wedding present in the world but Frau Blumich had very definite ideas about what she looked for in a husband,
'a bird whose wings had already been clipped, because that would be easier to keep and required less in the way of strenuous training.'
As for social class she had a clear view of that requirement too,
'His class was actually fairly immaterial, seeing as Frau Blumich thought it more practical to raise a creature from the lower sphere into her own, rather than suffer herself to be pulled aloft. That would have enjoined her to be grateful, and her authority would have been eroded as a consequence. And of course the paramount thing in a household is the authority of the woman running it.'
But it is inevitable that Andreas's good fortune will reach its sell-by date and an unfortunate encounter with the police and the interminable wheels of the justice system find him with some time on his hands.Time in which to reassess his life and there follows Joseph Roth (and Michael Hofmann) at his most prosaic and accessible.
Having now read a magnificent seven of the fourteen novels that I have, I think Rebellion might be an excellent book to start with if you are new to Joseph Roth. Eminently readable, and you know you are in the hands of a gifted writer and translator. I have to keep adding that because there must be many a slip twixt German and English.
To Foreignize or Domesticate the subject of an interesting piece by Robert Chandler in the latest newsletter from One World Classics. Despite a dislike of the words themselves, Robert Chandler acknowledges their usefulness in demonstrating the contradictory pulls felt by the translator,
'I mistrust any translator who doesn't feel both of these pulls. On the one hand, we want to bring a work into English in order to make it accessible; on the other hand, it may well be something about the work's otherness that attracted us to it in the first place. There may be little point in our translating it unless we can preserve some of its otherness.'
I think plenty of otherness remains in this translation of Rebellion, Joseph Roth on his third novel and perhaps approaching some of his best writing. This book absolutely makes you want to read much more, in fact why not the whole lot as Michael Hofmann suggests?