Book Review by Jeanette Rehnstrom
2015-09-15 16:44:26 -

The Leviathan

by Joseph Roth

(New Directions)



There is no use hiding it anymore, seeing that I have reviewed so many books of their’s throughout the years: I am a big, big fan of the New York publisher New Directions. I just love their superb, witty and stylish output. Often what they do is to resuscitate lost gems, bringing their sparkle and depth into new times.


The Austrian writer Joseph Roth’s final novella The Leviathan is but one of those gems; and this coming September also sees the publishing of a first overview of Roth’s journalism in The Hotel Years (something else not to miss).


Of course Joseph Roth’s oeuvre has never really gone out of print for long, and is not only presented to the world by New Directions, but still, if you are on the lookout for something that seems to have slipped under the radar for a good while undeservingly, New Directions is a good place to start.


The Leviathan forms part of the Pearls series by the publisher, and is a folkloric piece with bite. Nissen Piczenik is a coral merchant with a passion for corals that goes way beyond the professional. His love for the objects, along with a savvy business mind, makes a success of his affairs. That is, until a sailor appears in the small village and all of a sudden the swamp, to which Piczenik daily retreats to dream of water and seas, becomes the undesirable backwater it is.


Piczenik befriends the young sailor, and hears all about the real waters and stormy seas. When the moment appears for the sailor to return to the seaside and to his ship, Piczeink, ordinarily an extremely sober man, gets inebriated by the idea of accompanying the young man.


Throwing all caution to the wind Piczenik leaves his surprised and downtrodden wife on the doorstep to their house. Off to the sea he goes, and what he finds there is beyond his wildest dreams. He extends his holiday and as a result his business back home suffers. A competitor seizes the moment and open up a new, although inferior, coral business. When Piczenik returns and finds the competitor in full swing of usurping all of Piczenik’s customers he is confronted by one of life’s ultimatums: adapt or perish, or...


This is a short and sweet place to start if you had intended to check out Joseph Roth, or even if you hadn’t.

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