TARABAS A GUEST ON EARTH

Joseph Roth, "Tarabas a guest on earth", 1934.

"Here rests Colonel Nikolaus Tarabas: a guest on this earth.’ Tarabas tells the story of the restless life of Colonel Nikolaus Tarabas. Exiled to America by this father, for taking part in anti-Czarist activities, Tarabas becomes jealous over a woman and seriously injures a bar owner in a drunken rage. ‘The hearts of foolish, easily intoxicated people are impenetrable.’ A gypsy has predicted that Tarabas will be both a murderer and a saint. Thinking that the bar owner is dead, Tarabas uses the declaration of the Great War as an opportunity to flee America to join the Russian military. Here, as the Great War becomes the Revolution, Tarabas again commits an act of violence, this time against a Jewish man. Again he flees. This time, as a beggar trying to atone for his sins, he eventually finds peace when the Jewish man forgives him. While the main themes of the novel are crime and punishment, guilt and forgiveness, it is Tarabas’s restlessness and inability to settle and to really belong anywhere that has stayed with me. Yes, Tarabas is guilty of inhumanity, but he is not alone. I find this novel thought-provoking, bleak and unsettling: I love it. I am tempted to reread Dostoevsky to seek out parallels with both ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Idiot’. But the reread will have to wait. There are a number of Joseph Roth novels to read first"

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