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THE COLLECTED STORIES OF JOSEPH ROTH

Joseph Roth, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator
Joseph Roth, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator , trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann. Norton $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-04320-4
Reviewed on: 12/03/2001
Release date: 02/01/2002
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-393-32379-5
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Belatedly recognized in this country, but long acclaimed in Europe for such brilliant, classic novels as The Radetzky March, Roth died in 1939 in the early days of WWII. The 17 stories in this collection display his diverse but sometimes erratic talent. In the early entries, Roth paints his plots and characters in short, broad strokes, a trait leading to abrupt, unpredictable plot twists that occasionally blur the effect of his shorter works. When he stretches out and delves into the irony and humor of European life, however, his narratives acquire considerable resonance. "Station Fallmerayer," written in 1933, is a heartrending account of an Austrian station master who becomes obsessed with a Russian countess he rescues from a train wreck, despite the effects his pursuit has on their respective marriages. "The Triumph of Beauty" works on a different level as Roth explores the impact of an attractive, fickle hypochondriac on her beleaguered husband. Several other narratives extend to novella length, and the collection also contains works that were intended as blueprints for novels, such as the vividly evocative, elegiac "Strawberries." His penultimate achievement, "The Leviathan," tells of a coral merchant preoccupied with the mystery of the sea, who falls for the lure of selling fake merchandise, only to join his precious original wares in the watery depths. This collection marks the first time Roth's short fiction (some of which came to light only recently) has been available in English, and although a few of these stories are immature early works, taken together they testify to the talents of a writer who was penetratingly prescient about the tragedies that marred the 20th century. (Feb.)

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