The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth is an excellent book that I shall one day want to re-read. It is narrated in an expansive, relaxed style. You have to let him lead you into each chapter, but lead you he does and go somewhere he does also.
I concluded it downtown this morning, at an internet cafe where they also served good coffee and in the echoing stairwell under the plastic bubbles at the library. It ended admirably.
What is it about? It is about honor, empire and their connection to human life. Whether it is honor and empire that are ephemeral, or human life, is hard to judge. It is that kind of book. It is humorously tragic, and if you know the march, it will be going to your head hollowly, ironically, splendidly, etc. Really. So much so, that if you aren’t familiar enough with the music, then put it on repeat and have it well in place before you finish the book.
The three main characters are three generations that do not outlive the last Habsburg Emperor. In fact, the first one saves his life. Each different, each characteristic, the whole thing brilliantly done. Who could dream up something as ingenious as the day of glory in the life of a bureaucrat and pull it off almost as if it were a suspense novel? It happens and it is worthy of earnest congratulation.