The Tale of the 1002nd Night: A Novel

The Tale of the 1002nd Night: A Novel

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by Joseph Roth
     
 

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Vienna of the late nineteenth century, with its contrasting images of pomp and profound melancholy, provides the backdrop for Joseph Roth's final novel, which he completed in exile, a few years before his tragic death in 1939. The Tale of the 1002nd Night is a brilliant, allegorical tale of seduction and personal and societal ruin, set amidst exquisite,

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Overview

Vienna of the late nineteenth century, with its contrasting images of pomp and profound melancholy, provides the backdrop for Joseph Roth's final novel, which he completed in exile, a few years before his tragic death in 1939. The Tale of the 1002nd Night is a brilliant, allegorical tale of seduction and personal and societal ruin, set amidst exquisite, wistful descriptions of a waning aristocratic age, and provides an essential link to our understanding of Roth's extraordinary fictive powers.

Editorial Reviews

New Yorker
[Roth's] gifts...are substantial, and of a kind rarer now than it was 50 years ago.
Iain Bamforth
For all its lightheartedness the story ends on a note of dread: Roth is unsettlingly capable of writing in serious and comic modes at the same timea register that Michael Hoffman. . .captures with consummate skill. —The New York Review of Books
New Republic
Roth has the technique and style of a major writer.... His prose is always equal to the diverse effects he demands of it.
Library Journal
Roth's (Right and Left & the Legend of the Holy Drinker, LJ 4/15/92) novels are held in high esteem by nearly all who have read him, so it is a great treat to have his last novel available in English for the first time. An Austrian Jew, he began life as a Socialist and ended as a monarchist, and his later works were a unique mixture of critical irony and sweet nostalgia for the lost world of the Hapsburg Empire. This work, typical of Roth's outlook on life, describes the heavy burden of unexpected good fortune that befalls a sweet young Viennese prostitute in the aftermath of a visit to Vienna by the young and amorous Shah of Persia in the late 19th century. At the center of it all is Baron Taittinger, one of Roth's characteristic representatives of the Austrian upper class, who watches with profound incomprehension as his world crumbles around him. Witty, sad, and highly recommended.--Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., MD
Michiko Kakutani
. . .[A] disturbing little fable. . . .[that] ends as a pessimistic parable about deception and cultural decline. . . .there are ominous portents in this novel, written in 1936-37, of the horror yet to come. . .the era of Hitler, the era that Roth, in exile, would not live to see run its course. -- The New York Times
The New Yorker
[Roth's] gifts...are substantial, and of a kind rarer now than it was 50 years ago.
The New Republic
Roth has the technique and style of a major writer.... His prose is always equal to the diverse effects he demands of it.
Iain Bamforth
For all its lightheartedness the story ends on a note of dread: Roth is unsettlingly capable of writing in serious and comic modes at the same time, a register that Michael Hoffman. . .captures with consummate skill. -- The New York Review of Books
The London Times
Joseph Roth is one of the great writers in German of this century.
Kirkus Reviews
Thirteenth novel, and the last published (in 1939), by the Austrian author (1884-1939) whose richly textured fiction has earned him comparisons with Kafka, Musil, and Mann. As in Roth's other work (including, notably, The Radetzky March and Job), the corruption and fragility of the Habsburg Empire symbolize the crisis of an arrogant old order powerless to resist encroaching modernity. But there's a twist to this Tale: a state visit to Vienna in the latter 19th century (a visit that frames the story) by the Shah of Persia, who is himself seduced by the pleasures of that cosmopolitan city, and whose own willful wealth and power (embodied by a priceless string of pearls) destroy their would-be beneficiaries. Roth's plot focuses on the cavalry officer (Baron Taittinger) enlisted to satisfy the Shah's voluptuary whims, and on the luckless woman (Mitzi Schnagel) who was the Baron's mistress, who has borne his illegitimate son, and who is drawn into an elaborate ruse that imperils them both as well as others who unwisely stray into their orbits. Roth ranges with imperturbable skill among the viewpoints of several more major characters, including the Shah's wily "Chief Eunuch," Patominos; the greedy procuress Josephine Matzner (an unforgettable study of a lone woman terrified by the specter of poverty); and the venomous "crime reporter" Lazik, whose scheming hastens the sequence of misadventures that bring down the complacent Taittinger. It's a scathing cautionary tale that demonstrates with masterly economy its characters' desperation to retain whatever wealth, status, and security they've managed to acquire—-and the ruin to which their hungers drive them. Baron Taittinger is atremendous figure: a self-justifying sensualist and weakling whose precipitous decline oddly recalls that of Hurstwood in Dreiser's Sister Carrie. One of the best novels of one of 20th-century Europe's greatest writers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429980029
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2011
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
File size:
324 KB

Read an Excerpt


The Tale of 1002nd Night
1In the spring of the year 18------, the Shah-in-Shah, the great, exalted, and holy monarch, the absolute ruler and overlord of all the lands of Persia, began to feel a sense of malaise of a kind he had never before experienced.The most renowned doctors in his Empire were unable to explain his condition. The Shah-in-Shah was most alarmed.On one of his sleepless nights, he summoned to him his Chief Eunuch, Patominos, who was a wise man and knew the world, for all that he had never left the Court. He spoke to him as follows:"Friend Patominos, I am sick. I'm afraid I may be very sick. My doctor tells me I'm healthy, but I don't believe him. Do you believe him, Patominos?""No, I don't believe him either!" said Patominos."Do you think I might be gravely sick, then?" asked the Shah."Gravely sick--no--I don't think so!" replied Patominos. "But sick! Definitely sick, Sire! There are many sicknesses. Doctorsdon't see them all because they are used to looking for physical ailments. But what good to a man are healthy organs and a healthy body if he pines in his soul?""How do you know I'm pining?""I ventured to guess that you were.""Then what is it I'm pining for?""That," replied Patominos, "is something I need to think about for a while."The eunuch Patominos pretended to think, and then he said:"Sire, you are pining for exotic foreign climes--for example, for Europe.""Along journey?""A short journey, Sire! Short journeys are more fun. Long journeys may endanger one's health.""And where to?""Sire," said the eunuch, "there are many countries in Europe. It all depends on what one is looking for.""And what do you think I should be looking for, Patominos?""Sire," said the eunuch, "how can a miserable fellow like myself have any idea what a great ruler should be looking for?""Patominos," said the Shah, "you know I haven't touched a woman for weeks.""Yes, Sire, I know," replied Patominos."And do you think that's as it should be, Patominos?""Sire," said the eunuch, drawing himself up a little out of his hunched posture, "that, surely, is something that a person of my particular type can know but little about.""I envy you.""Indeed," replied the eunuch, now fully and plumply upright. "And I feel sorry for other men with all my heart.""Why do you feel sorry for us, Patominos?" asked the monarch."For many reasons," replied the eunuch, "but especially because men are driven to the pursuit of variety. And that is a treacherous objective, because there is no such thing as variety.""Are you telling me that I should go somewhere in pursuit of variety?""Yes, Sire," said Patominos, "to convince yourself that it doesn't exist.""And that of itself would cure me?""Not the convincing yourself, Sire," said the eunuch, "but the experiences gathered on the way to such a conviction.""What gives you your insight into these matters, Patominos?""The fact that I am a castrate, Sire!" replied the eunuch, with a low bow. He proposed a remote destination to the Shah. He suggested Vienna.The ruler reflected: "Muslims have been there once before, many years ago.""Sire, they were unfortunately unable to enter the city. Had they done so, St. Stephen's Cathedral would have not a cross, but a crescent moon on top of it!""It was all a long time ago. We are now at peace with the Emperor of Austria.""Indeed, Sire!""Let's go, then!" decreed the Shah. "Inform my ministers!"And it all came to pass.The Chief Eunuch, Kalo Patominos, sat and presided over the women, first in a first-class railway carriage, and later in the bow of a ship. He watched the red setting sun go down. He spread out a carpet, prostrated himself on the ground, and began to murmur his evening prayers. The party reached Constantinople without incident.The sea was as placid as a baby. The ship, itself a babe in arms, floated gently and sweetly out into the blue night.Copyright © 1939 by De Gemeenschap, Bilthoven. Copyright © 1981, 1987 by Allert de Lange,

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What People are saying about this

Joseph Brodsky
There is a poem on every page of Joseph Roth.
Nadine Gordimer
The totality of Joseph Roth's work is no less than a tragedie humaine achieved in the techniques of modern fiction. No other writer, not excepting Thomas Mann, has come so close to achieving the wholeness...that Lukacs cites as our impossible aim.

Meet the Author

Joseph Roth (1894-1939) worked as a journalist in Vienna and Berlin until Hitler's rise. He then emigrated to Paris, where he died in 1939.

Michael Hoffman is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost translators of works from German to English. He lives in London.


Joseph Roth was born in Galicia in 1894. He worked as a journalist in Vienna and Berlin until Hitler's rise to power. In 1933, he fled to Paris, where he joined a growing community of exiled intellectuals. He died there in 1939.


Michael Hofmann is a poet and frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review, and is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost translators of works from German to English. He lives in London.

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