Tarabas

Joseph Roth, Author, Joseph Roth, Other
Joseph Roth, Author, Joseph Roth, Other Overlook Press $18.95 (273p) ISBN 978-0-87951-275-0
Reviewed on: 08/04/1987
Release date: 08/01/1987
An outsize figure in the mode of folklore, protagonist Nicholas Tarabas fills the entire narrative space of this novel, first published in 1934, one of a large legacy of works left on the author's death in 1939, at the age of 45, while in exile from Hitler's Germany. In a series of quick strokes, Tarabas leaves school to join a revolutionary group in czarist Russia; is sent to America by his outraged father; returns to join the army when war is declared in 1914; and gains a fearful reputation for ""bravery'' indistinguishable from brutality. After the Revolution, events move with jarring rapidity as he becomes involved in village life. When an apparition of the Virgin appears, the mesmerized and maddened peasants set fire to Jewish homes and shops, and suddenly the viciously anti-Semitic Tarabas, having by an act of insane cruelty torn the beard from the synagogue sexton's face, repents in an ecstasy of remorse, and by way of atonement, becomes a penitent, a beggar adrift on the road. A Dostoyevskian transformation indeed, one among a number of magical changes and abrupt transitions before Tarabas is forgiven by the sexton so that he may die in peace. Flaws and mystical epiphanies notwithstanding, this prophetic work written just when the Nazis come to power is a welcome addition to the posthumous oeuvre and Roth's growing reputation.(September 7)
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