I hope you enjoy this link to Bach's Flute Sonata in E-Flat Major performed by Emmanuel Pahud accompanied by Trevor Pinnock on harpsichord.
Note: I have revised this review in order to take out a few spoilers.
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third book I have read by Roth and it was very interesting. We begin with the Battle of Solferino, which was part of the battle for Italian independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Franz Joseph I is saved from a lethal bullet by a Lt. Trotta who throws himself in front of the Emperor and takes the bullet for himself, but survives.
The Emperor gives Trotta a Baronetcy, which thrusts Trotta and his progeny into the uncomfortable realm of aristocracy. Baron Trotta does not wear it well and continues to act like the peasant he was born as, retiring to his estates and burying himself there.
His son becomes a District Captain and his son becomes a Officer in the Calvary. While the District Captain upholds his aristocratic bearing, his son sinks into ignominy through the usual way of women, alcohol and gambling.
The lives of these three men parallel the rise and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which is the back drop for the story.
The first Trotta barely enters into the story while the focus centers on the second Trotta and his son. The father being the pinnacle of proper conduct and honor and his son the opposite.
The youngest Trotta is a tragic figure because his thinking is so simple. He has no friends, he does not connect to his fellow officers and when he finally makes friends with a man, it is complicated and tragic because the man is Jewish.
This friend is interesting. He is also an outcast because he is Jewish. Joseph Roth, while being Jewish himself, did not write "Jewish ethnic" literature the way Isaac Bashevis Singer or Chaim Potok does. One would not necessarily know Roth was Jewish from his writing. In this he is like Stephen Zweig. In fact I find their writing similar.
Yet, they do bring Jewish characters into their writing and show the racism and discrimination against them during the time period.
By the time of WWI, the Trotta fortune is gone, the Archduke has been assassinated and when it's all over the Empire no longer exists.
The interplay between father and son and the personal relationships with others is what I found the most intriguing about the story. There is a sequel called the Emperor's Tomb which follows the Trotta family and Austria into Nazi Germany. I am looking forward to reading this book as well.
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