Joseph Roth’s final novella, The Leviathan, concerns a shtetl’s finest coral merchant and how his dream of seeing the sea for the first time materializes at a terrible cost.
In the small town of Progrody, Nissen Piczenik makes his living as the most respected coral merchant of the region. Nissen has never been outside of his town, deep in the Russian interior, and fantasizes that a Leviathan watches over the coral reefs. When the sailor nephew of one of Progrody’s residents comes to visit, Nissen loses little time in befriending him for the purpose of learning about the sea. The sailor offers Nissen a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to Odessa and tour his ship. Nissen leaves his business during the peak coral season, and stays in Odessa for three weeks. But upon his return to Progrody, Nissen finds that a new coral merchant has moved into the neighboring town, and his coral is quickly becoming the most sought after. As his customers dwindle, life takes an evil twist for Nissen Piczenik. And the final decider of his fate may be the devil himself.
About the Author
Joseph Roth (1894-1939) was the great elegist of the cosmopolitan culture that flourished in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He published several books and articles before his untimely death at the age of 44. Roth’s writing has been admired by J. M. Coetzee, Jeffrey Eugenides, Elie Wiesel, and Nadine Gordimer, among many others.
The poet Michael Hofmann has won numerous prizes for his German translations.