Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Joseph Roth was a prolific writer in a variety of prose forms. As a journalist for several leading German newspapers, Roth displayed his wide-ranging interest in politics, society, art, and culture through a “feuilletonistic” style that he succeeded in elevating to an art form. Between 1922 and 1939, he completed a number of short stories in addition to his fifteen novels. Like many of his longer works of fiction, Die Legende vom heiligen Trinker (1939; The Legend of the Holy Drinker, 1943), the most famous of these shorter works, is a tale of love and misfortune expressed through the lives of simple people and social misfits. Essays, short prose pieces, travel impressions, portraits, and book reviews complete the four volumes of his collected works, edited and published by friend and fellow-author Hermann Kesten.

The lengthiest and most notable of Roth’s many essays, Juden auf Wanderschaft (1927; The Wandering Jews, 2001) and Der Antichrist (1934; Antichrist, 1935), give unequivocal testimony to the author’s sense of social justice and firm commitment to humanity. Under the influence of neo-Romanticism as a student of German language and literature at the University of Vienna, Roth experimented with political and satiric poetry and with fairy-tale motifs. Although a number of his early works have been lost, Roth’s major novels have enjoyed enduring popularity; several have been made into films, and many of his major works have been translated into English. Roth’s papers are housed at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.