The Legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth

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legend

The Legend of the Holy Drinker is Joseph Roth’s last work of fiction, quite deliberately so. Like Andreas’s repayment of the two hundred francs, it was his last detail. Again, like Andreas, he took his time over it, didn’t rush – as most of his books were rushed – but worked at it slowly, with pleasure and pride, for the first four months of 1939. At the end of the fifth, he died. He was not quite forty-five years old.”

So writes translator Michael Hofmann in his Note to Granta’s 2000 edition of Roth’s ‘secular miracle-tale’. In many ways there is little more to be said about this perfectly crafted diamond of a story. Arguably Roth’s masterwork, mined from his own life and foretelling is own death, it is a minimalist classic – longer than a short-story, shorter than a novella and weaving a spell that never entirely releases…

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