|The Austro Hungarian Empire in all its glory|
The Radetzky March (1932)
by Joseph Roth
Joseph Roth is a lesser known German language author from the early part of the 20th century (he died in 1939) he was a journalist, and very active in anti-facist/nazi circles, leaving Germany as Hitler rose to power. The Radetzky March is a story of three generations of Austrian military men- the grandfather, ennobled after saving the life of Franz Joseph the "Grand Warlord" in action in Bosnia in the late 19th century. His son becomes a District Supervisor, and the grandson becomes military officer of no great distinction. Although The Radetzky March is in theory about the lives of the three Von Trotta men, it is hard not to see it as a story about the decline and fall of the Austrian monarchy, pressed by forces (Nationalism, modernity) that it could not control.
One notable attribute of The Radetzky March is the use of the Austrian Monarch as a character, who speaks, and whose actions are subject to description similar to any character. Although today we are acclimated to fictional depictions of real historical characters, Roth's move was unheard of in the early part of the 20th century. The Radetzky March is worth tracking down if you are as into the decline and fall of empires as I am (very.)