The Antichrist’s singularity amongst Joseph Roth’s work stems both from the urgency that courses through its prose and the book’s hybrid form, which seems simultaneously to straddle the novel, journalism and memoir.
The Antichrist follows Roth’s fictional counterpart, J.R., who is a journalist hired by a proto-media mogul called the Master of a Thousand Tongues to report on the myriad emanations of the Antichrist throughout the world. This loose narrative structure allows Roth to tilt his irony-tipped lance at the various evils he believes are driving civilization beyond the point of no return. The Master of a Thousand Tongues sends J.R. to report from the “Red Earth” (a thinly veiled Soviet Union) where “sweepers” have brushed aside not only poverty but also religion and righteousness. He exposes a propaganda machine bent toward an industrial, dehumanizing modernity. Next he is dispatched to the (“land of shadows”) Hollywood, a cinematic factory cranking out very different but no less threatening illusions. He is sent to coal mines, summits between world leaders, gatherings of religious leaders, and most chillingly he is instructed to “visit the Jews”. As the Jews had no homeland, he was forced to visit a ghetto where the Jews, who as “the earthly womb” of Christ live in a threatening and inextricable bond with the Antichrist. The Antichrist bares Roth’s pessimism and devastating prescience, not only for the impending horrors of the gulags and concentration camps, but for the still extending networks of control that were ushered in during Roth’s lifetime by the pioneers of mass media – in fact, in The Antichrist Roth even predicts, among other things, the advent of paparazzi. This book is a vital addition to the Roth canon in English, and an historical critique-cum-allegory worthy of Roth’s peer Walter Benjamin.
Translated from the German by Richard Panchyk.
‘Part parable, part polemic, it is an intriguing period piece.’ – Guardian
‘Fantastical and oddly on the money.’ – Clare Allfree, Metro
'I find it impossible to explain with any certainty why a writer of such immense gifts and achievements should not be more revered.' – Ronald Harwood, The Jewish Quarterly
'Roth has the technique and style of a major writer ... his prose is always equal to the diverse effects he demands of it – nicely modulated irony, lyrical flights, hard concrete descriptive passages.' – The New Republic
‘Writing about the death of an empire and the end of an era Roth perhaps seems to have more to say to us now than ever before . . . At school, I was forever having to study the Habsburg Empire; it was only reading Roth, years later, that gave it human colour and meaning, to the point where it now strikes me as being the main story of our continent.’ – Michael Hofmann
JOSEPH ROTH was born in Brody, Galicia – then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire now in Ukraine – in 1894. He served in the Austrian army between 1916 and 1918. After the war he moved to Vienna and worked for newspapers in Austria and Germany. He established a reputation for himself as a brilliant and insightful journalist. As early as 1923 he warned against the threat of Nazism, travelling extensively not only across Austria and Germany but all over Eastern Europe and Russia where he reported on the Russian revolution. In 1933, with his warnings about Fascism unheeded, he left Germany in disgust and moved to Paris where depression and alcoholism overcame him. He drank himself into an early grave in 1939.
|Date Published||30th January 2010|
- Product Code: Paperback
- Author: Joseph Roth