Joseph Roth: Peerless Novelist of Exile

Joseph Roth, one of the great Jewish writers of the 20th century, is still not well-known today, but recent translations have brought his work to an English-speaking audience. Born in the northeastern reaches of the Austro-Hungarian empire in what is now Ukraine, he spent most of his adult life in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris and was a prolific author of essays and novels. Much of his fiction deals with the lost world of pre-World War I Austria and the trauma of the empire’s collapse. Anka Muhlstein comments on the range of Roth’s literary abilities:

If Job, the most Jewish of all Roth’s novels, ends with a miracle—after a terrible stay in New York where he emigrated to protect his family, Mendel Singer, the humble Jew, finds happiness once again living with his only surviving son—The Leviathan finishes with a shipwreck. The Leviathan is written with the simplicity of a fairy tale. One of the most striking aspects of Roth’s talent is the stunning diversity of his style. During those very last years of exile, he ranged in tone from a book that’s half detective thriller, half spy novel, reminiscent of Dostoevsky in Confession of a Murderer, to the bright and lyrical style of The Leviathan.

Read more at New York Review of Books

More about: Austria-Hungary, Galicia, Jewish literature, Joseph Roth

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas