The Viennese still clap and stomp during the chorus of the Radetzkymarsch, the ebullient martial tune by Johann Strauss, from which the underappreciated author Joseph Roth took the title of his most-celebrated book. (Go here to watch Herbert von Karajan hamming it up as he conducts the March at the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concert.) The novel is a magisterial text, moving from the high noon of empire in Austria to the evening, following the lives of three generations of the Trotta family through their ennoblement to the crushing demise of their homeland. Roth shows the reader how great fiction can make history clear better than most historical writing. Militarism and the sins and temptations of myth-making are central to this story that so eloquently chronicles a great power’s decline.We here at Via Meadia are fans—Roth was one of the greats, and his legacy as an important German writer of the twentieth century deserves the recent upsurge in attention and praise paid to his works.The New York Times recently reviewed a new collection of correspondence from Roth’s productive period, titled Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters. The ever-travelling Roth succumbed to illness in 1939, before the Second World War truly got underway, but his observations about the rise of fascism and war-mongering in Europe offer insight into his keen sense of his times. Two weeks after Hitler took power, Roth wrote to one of his contemporaries: “we are heading for a great catastrophe,” adding: “the barbarians have taken over. Do not deceive yourself. Hell reigns.”Roth is a great and under appreciated writer. Do yourselves a favor and read The Radetzky March.