Introduced by William Boyd
Illustrated by Tim Laing
At once epic and intimate, this deeply compassionate portrait of a family and the empire they serve places its author alongside Tolstoy and Chekhov.
Shortlisted for the V&A Book Illustration Award 2016
Joseph Roth was born in East Galicia, now Western Ukraine, in 1894, to an Austrian Jewish family. The Radetzky March; his acknowledged masterpiece; was published in 1932, seven years before he died in impoverished exile in Paris. This edition uses the acclaimed translation by Michael Hofmann, which was largely responsible for the revival of this neglected classic. Tim Laing has created a series of photo-realist pencil drawings that celebrate the story’s naturalism. In his introduction, novelist William Boyd praises this remarkable novel which, ‘because of its deep, sympathetic, non-judgmental understanding of our flawed humanity, achieves greatness’.
‘One of the greatest novels written in the last century … Exhilarating, life-enhancing to read’
In 1859, a humble infantry lieutenant saves the life of Emperor Franz Josef at the Battle of Solferino. As a result he is elevated to the nobility, and forever alienated from his peasant Slovenian origins. His son becomes a District Commissioner, upholding the rigid conventions of hatted-and-gloved Imperial bureaucracy, and his grandson a cavalry officer over whose aimless existence falls the shadow of the First World War. The decline of the Trotta family goes hand-in-hand with that of the Empire they served.
Joseph Roth has been compared to Anton Chekhov for his compassionate knowledge of the human condition, and for his ability to immerse the reader in a fully realised world. In The Radetzky March he shows us the Austro-Hungarian Empire; not its epicentre, Vienna, but the fringes. As William Boyd writes in his introduction: ‘It’s a world of isolated country estates and military barracks; of lonely, lovelorn cavalry officers and melancholy bureaucrats. It was a world Roth ardently missed.’ The great historical events that shape the Trottas’ lives are rarely witnessed at first hand. Instead, like Tolstoy or Proust, Roth creates gold from the everyday, in particular the relationship between fathers and sons in all its unspoken love and frailty.
‘Epic … brilliantly achieved … the portrait of an empty age, an age of gold braid and glitter’
Joseph Roth was born Moses Joseph Roth in September 1894, to Jewish parents. He never met his father, who vanished before his birth, but grew up with his mother and her family in Brody, a small town in the east of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Roth studied Philosophy and German literature at the University of Vienna, but abandoned his studies in 1916 to serve in the army, then engaged on the Eastern Front. Roth’s experiences of war, and of the collapse of the empire in 1918, were to affect his life and work profoundly. In 1920 he moved to Berlin, and subsequently travelled, working successfully and prolifically as a journalist. His first novel, The Spider’s Web, was serialised in an Austrian newspaper in 1923, but he attained major acclaim for his novels Job (1930) and The Radetzky March (1932), as well as his essays, including The Wandering Jews (1927). He died in Paris in 1939.
Michael Hofmann was born in 1957 in Freiburg, West Germany, and grew up in Bristol and Edinburgh. Among the many accolades he has received for his poetry collections and literary translations are the 1984 Cholmondeley Award for Nights in the Iron Hotel, the 1988 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for Acrimony, the 1995 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of his father Gert Hofmann’s novel The Film Explainer, and the 1998 International IMPac Dublin Literary award for his translation of Herta Müller’s The Land of Green Plums. In 2012 he was awarded the Thornton Wilder Prize for Literary Translation by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a longstanding English translator of Joseph Roth. His latest book is Where Have You Been?: Selected Essays (2014).
William Boyd is a novelist and short-story writer. his work has been published around the world and translated into over 30 languages. He is the author of 14 novels, the latest of which is Sweet Caress (2015).
Tim Laing is a freelance illustrator living and working in London. he studied illustration at Brighton University, where he developed his interest in working from books and short stories. He has since been commissioned by The New York Times and Wallpaper magazine, among others. For The Folio Society he has illustrated Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark (2009) and a trilogy of novels by John le Carré which included Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2009).
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Review by ruskee on 24th Jun 2017
"Well done Folio, for selecting Hoffmann's translation whose magnificent prose provides by far the best translation into English, and for commissioning such stunning illustrations. Perfect, thank you!"
Review by anon on 5th Mar 2016
"Slow meditative immersion into a lost world.Hint to Folio-if you reprinted A Nervous Splendour they would make a perfect pair. "