Looking for a Great Jewish Writer in Wartime Ukraine https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/arts-culture/2024/03/looking-for-a-great-jewish-writer-in-wartime-ukraine/

March 20, 2024 | Edward Serotta
About the author:

100 years ago, Joseph Roth, a Jew from what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire, was one of the most well-known journalists in Europe. He also wrote 17 novels and novellas, among them Job, a modern tale based on the biblical story, and  The Radetzky March, widely regarded as one of the finest European novels of the 20th century.

But, as Edward Serotta points out, Roth’s “personal life was one of catastrophe; aside from his oeuvre, he would leave behind nothing but debts and a schizophrenic wife locked away in Austria.”

Serotta narrates this tragic story while visiting Roth’s hometown of Brody, now in western Ukraine. Though spared the worst impacts of Russia’s invasion, Brody hasn’t fared too well either:

The town sat close to the Austrian-Russian border, and I was tickled to see an old photograph on the wall taken of that border. We see civilian couples, men in a variety of uniforms, two middle-aged women dressed nicely, and a row of barefoot children mugging for the camera, one of them wearing some sort of military uniform. Welcome to the empire, they could be saying.

The Jews of Brody, who comprised over 80% of the population by the mid-1800s, were mostly engaged in trade. That was when Brody had the status of a free trade city, but when it lost that right in the 1880s, Jews began drifting away. Quite a few settled in Odesa, and they named their synagogue the Brody Shul in honor of their former city. The Brody Shul still stands and functions, which is more than one can say about the synagogue that is actually in Brody, which is a burned hulk crying out for some sort of restoration.

Read more on Tablet: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/the-last-chronicler-of-a-lost-world