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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The Radetzky March - Joseph Roth, Nadine Gordimer, Joachim Neugroschel Rating: 4* of five The Book Report: The book description from Amazon is unusually cryptic. It says:“The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth's classic saga of the privileged von Trotta family, encompasses the entire social fabric of the Austro-Hungarian Empire just before World War I. The author's greatest achievement, The Radetzky March is an unparalleled portrait of a civilization in decline, and as such, a universal story for our times.”My Review: The Trotta family, beneficiaries of the gratitude of the most inept politician and soldier ever to lead an empire, rise to dizzying social heights based on a misunderstanding of an actual brave and generous act. The First Baron saves the Emperor's life by knocking the fool off of his horse in the course of losing a battle. The Emperor's gift of a title to his Slovenian savior sets in motion a long, slow decline and fall, paralleling the Empire's own fate.The Second Baron, excited by Papa's rep as a war hero and having no other information about the subject than other peoples' gossip, wants to be a cavalry officer like his papa. Papa, who was actually an infantry lieutenant and who is revolted by the gossipy fate of his deed, refuses either to discuss the matter or to allow his son into the military. So the second baron becomes a bureaucrat ruling the lives of people he feels superior to. He and the rest of the Trotta family are firmly convinced they are to the manor born. Papa sighs to himself, keeps his lip zipped, and dies.The Baron-in-waiting becomes the cavalry officer his papa wanted to be. What a complete wastrel this goofball is. He truly buys in heavily to the privilege and prerogatives of being titled and in the Army. YUCKAPOOVICH. And then, in the course of duty, the scales fall from Lieutenant Trotta's eyes. The story of how that happens is a spoiler, so I have to leave it out of this review, except to say that it was at this point that my flagging interest in finishing this tome woke right back up and I wanted to read more.I read the ending of the book in a rush, saddened and hurting for the Second Baron whose life was ending as his world was too. It was 1916, the Empire's effective end, and it is told in the simplest and most moving terms, in a scene of touching misdirected loyalty and typically unanswered love.[[Joachim Neugroschel]] translated the edition I read. It was a pleasure to read...when the story could be bothered to perform its parlor tricks to keep me interested. There are stretches of the Second Baron's life that made me want to scrub my eyelids with witch hazel to tighten them into the open position. But as I read on, lulled by the gentle rocking of the style-train Roth sent me to war aboard, I realized that this, the warm velour first-class seat in the wood-lined first-class compartment, was a comfortable place to be, and I was content to trust the train's course would end in a place I'd want to be.It did. It's a pleasure to have taken the journey at last.