The rousing Radetzky March, composed by Johann Strauss Sr. in 1848 in honor of Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, was based on a popular Austrian folk melody. By his frequent mentions of the march Joseph Roth has in effect provided appropriate background music for readers of The Radetzky March, his novel about the last days of the Hapsburg Empire.
The 1932 novel has been called a masterpiece, but the historical detail is no less riveting than the writing. Roth was born in 1894 and served in the Austro-Hungarian army from 1916 to 1918. He creates glowing word pictures of the places, personages, and life styles of the sprawling empire in the early part of the 20th Century, in a way that could only be done by someone who was there himself.
Joachim Neugroschel, who translated the novel from the original German, deserves special credit for the beautiful English prose.