9780312193416 / 0312193416

The Tale of the 1002nd Night


3.57 avg rating178 ratings by GoodReads

Publisher:St. Martin's Press, 1998



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About the book:

Vienna of the late nineteenth century--with its contrasting images of pomp and profound melancholy--provides the backdrop for Joseph Roth's final novel, which he completed in exile in Paris, a few years before his death in 1939.

Immersing himself in the perceived glories of a vanished past, Roth tells the tragic story of Mizzi Schinagl, the daughter of a pipemaker, who has fallen in love with a nobleman and cavalry officer--a man of a much higher class. Unfortunately for Mizzi, Baron Taittinger, the object of her affection, has liberally bestowed his charms on too many others. Crushed by the Baron's promiscuities, Mizzi nonetheless finds herself pregnant with his son. Her reputation ruined by the Baron, Mizzi is forced into a bordello after being abandoned by her erstwhile lover.

At the same time, the Persian Shah pays a state visit to the Kaiser. Desirous of an affair with and "exotic" Western woman, the Shah conspires with Taittinger to find a consort. When the Shah decides upon a court nobleman's wife, Taittinger must act quickly to deceive his friend from Persia. Mizzi, surreptitiously chosen for this role, soon finds herself enmeshed in an ironic series of calamitous events in which nothing is what it seems.

The tragic lot that befalls Mizzi provides the cornerstone of Roth's tale, a story of personal and societal ruin set amidst exquisite, wistful descriptions of a waning aristocratic age. In Taittinger, who embodies this spirit of slow decline, Roth has created one of his best "uncomprehending heroes"--a decent but essentially frivolous, limited man, completely unequipped to deal with the consequences of his own actions.

The Tale of the 1002nd Night is a profound master work of the first order, providing an essential link to our understanding of the extraordinary fictive powers of Joseph Roth.

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