Right and Left and the Legend of the Holy Drinker

Joseph Roth, Author, Michael Hormann, Translator, Michael Hofmann, Translator Overlook Press $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-87951-448-8
A master of modern fiction who fled Nazi Germany and died in France in 1939, Roth is in top form in these two works. First published in 1929, Right and Left , set in 1920s Berlin, is a remarkably prescient novella prefiguring the collapse of morality and the rise of Nazism. It concerns the explosive sibling rivalry between Paul Bernheim, a cultured, snobbish banker who marries for money, and his brother Theodore, a violent brownshirt posing as a pure Aryan, hiding his mother's Jewish ancestry. By means of a cagey, enigmatic Russian financier who manipulates the two brothers, Roth punctures the smug pretensions and illusions of Germany's precarious middle class. Himself a chronic alcoholic, the author transforms his personal tragedy into a light, sparkling modern fable in The Legend of the Holy Drinker , finished just before his death. Set in Paris, it follows a drunken vagrant who's continually sidetracked in his efforts to make good on his promise to deliver a sum of money to the shrine of St. Theresa. Hofmann's inspired translation showcases Roth's galvanizing, constantly surprising style. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
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