Facing Modernity: Fragmentation, Culture and Identity in Joseph Roth's Writing in the 1920s
by Jon Hughes
This is the first monograph on the work of Joseph Roth (1894-1939) to be published in English by a British-based academic, and should prove useful ... Show synopsis This is the first monograph on the work of Joseph Roth (1894-1939) to be published in English by a British-based academic, and should prove useful both to those with a specialized interest in Roth, whose novels and journalism continue to gain admirers around the world, and to those interested more broadly in an extraordinarily rich period in twentieth century European culture. It serves both as an introduction to the early part of a body of work whose variety and volume were for many years overshadowed by the reputation of the historical novel Radetzkymarsch (1932), and as a re-assessment of Roth's writing, both of fiction and of journalism, within the modern tradition. A perceived fragmentation of social, political, cultural and other traditions was a particular concern for Roth, as for many contemporaries, and the thematic chapters present a detailed contextual survey of Roth's intense and often ambivalent engagement with aspects of modern life, including travel, gender, technology, the city, and cinema. Besides assessing the continuities and discontinuities in Roth's attitudes, these chapters examine how his responses to the contemporary world impact upon both the form and content of his writing. The author argues that Roth's writing of the 1920s should be considered modernist not just in its often prescient sensitivity to cultural and political developments, but in its employment of a formal aesthetics and narrative self-consciousness which eventually made possible the illusory wholeness of the later fiction.