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.