The string of pearls

by Joseph Roth

Paper Book, 1998





London : Granta Books, 1998.


While visiting Vienna, the Shah of Persia falls for a beautiful countess. The Austrian officials arrange for him to spend the night with the countess, but unbeknown to the Shah she is a prostitute who merely resembles the countess. From this night follows a chain of ruinous consequences.

User reviews

LibraryThing member vaellus
With its many gracious passages this novel too is a half-decent showcase of the talents of Joseph Roth, but apart from the beginning the characters just aren't very engrossing. Elegiac setting in the last times of the old Vienna of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, melancholic episodes, wonderful in details but as a whole falls short of Roth's best work.

The same translation of this work has been published under two different names: _The String Of Pearls_ and _The Tale of the 1002nd Night_. (By the by, another case of this is Roth's book of reports from France.)
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LibraryThing member akfarrar
There is a tremendous sense of the decline of an empire here.

An arogant army officer, so out of touch with the real world that he doesn't realise he has become bankrupt - both financially and morally - fathers an illegitimate child, arranges a sordid encounter for the 'Shah of Shahs' and, through a failure to act, not only spirals to his own distruction but takes several other people with him.

The personal tale clearly reflects the state the 'state' is in.

The characters are finely drawn with an economy of words which makes this a very sharp edged tale.
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LibraryThing member alexdaw
"A fairy story that has swallowed a novel..." Michael Hofmann, in the Introduction to his translation of Die Geschichte der 1002en Nacht sums up Joseph Roth's artistry admirably. Roth's writing is indeed Dickensian in style "but at a third of the length" - an even more admirable quality in my books. This volume published by Granta books London is delightful to hold and delightful to read. It is not without its disturbing qualities. And by disturbing I don't mean scary or unpalatable; I mean disquieting, uncomfortable and rousing the reader to deep contemplation of the world and its human occupants. The story is set in 18-- and for the most part in Vienna. It starts in Persia however with the Shah-in-Shah who is "sick". His Chief Eunuch diagnoses boredom but not in so many words and so the royal delegation and all its retinue head off to Vienna in search of variety. The Shah's visit has unintended consequences for various unsuspecting individuals which I won't reveal for fear of spoiling the story. This is my first experience of Roth. I will definitely be going back for more. So many of the passages in this book are spine-chilling in their accurate observations of human frailty. His characters often commit "monstrous" acts and yet the reader is still compelled to observe them with compassion if only out of a knowledge of shared weaknesses. Here is one little quote: "Experiences, when one encountered them, looked bright, colourful, floating. You held on to them as to a balloon on a string, for as long as they were fun. Then, when you got bored, you let go. They floated off prettily into the air, you watched them go with gratitude and affection, and they they went quietly pop somewhere in the clouds. But a few hadn't gone pop at all. Instead, treacherous and invisible, they had hung around somewhere for years, in defiance of all the rules of Nature. And then, full of ballast, they fell back like lead weights on the head of poor Taittinger." Roth's observation of humanity is almost scientific in its accuracy but mercifully he softens it with a large dollop of droll humour. Enjoy!… (more)
LibraryThing member Czrbr
Book Description: Picador USA Nov-99. eng. First printing. 272 p. ; 0. 71" x 8. 24" x 5. 51". Fine. No dust jacket, as issued. Unblemished, unread paperback. Translated by Michael Hofmann. "There is a poem on every page of Joseph Roth. "--Joseph Brodsky.
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