Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Roth. No, the Other Roth.

A couple of lines from The Radetzky March (1932). Roth is describing the peasant Onufrij straining to write his own name:  'The beads of sweat grew on his low brow like transparent crystal boils. These boils ran, ran down like tears wept by Onufrij's brain.' Nice; but a touch too condescending I feel.  I don't think Onufrij's brain is really all that bothered by questions of literacy.


Zenek said...

It's some time since I read Joseph Roth's wonderful novel but I would have thought that rather than being condescending it is a beautiful description of someone desperately trying to express themselves in a world which is alien, and unintelligible to them but also dominant

Adam Roberts said...

Yes, that's probably a fairer way of putting it. Though Roth is no Tolstoy, in terms of locating authentic lived-experience amongst the peasants. He does look down on peasant life, as well.