Joseph Roth: Die Kapuzinergruft, first edition of the novel (1938)

Book: Joseph Roth, Die Kapuzinergruft
Front cover for the first edition (1938) of the novel Die Kapuzinergruft by Joseph Roth
Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933-1945 der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek, Exil-Literatur (Magazinbestand), EB 58/57

Joseph Roth: Die Kapuzinergruft, first edition of the novel (1938)

„Man braucht jetzt ein Visum für jedes Land extra!“ sagte mein Vetter Joseph Branco. „Zeit meines Lebens hab’ ich so was nicht gesehn. Jedes Jahr habe ich überall verkaufen können: in Böhmen, Mähren, Schlesien, Galizien“ und er zählte alle alten, verlorenen Kronländer auf. „Und jetzt ist alles verboten. Und dabei hab’ ich einen Paß. Mit Photographie.“

[“You need a separate visa for every country!” my cousin Joseph Branco said. “I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. I was able to sell everywhere every year: in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Galicia” – and he recited all of the old, lost crown lands. “And now everything is forbidden. And I even have a passport. With a photo.”  (ed. trans.)]

Joseph Roth, Die Kapuzinergruft, 1938

In the novel Die Kapuzinergruft [The Emperor's Tomb, 1938] by writer Joseph Roth, the end of the Danube Monarchy is described from the perspective of the nobleman Franz Ferdinand Trotta. He is unable to cope with the new world order and escapes into nostalgic mourning for the “old world”. The demise of Austria-Hungary is used in the novel as a melancholy metaphor for the loss of the homeland and identity per se. Thematically, Die Kapuzinergruft picks up where Roth's successful 1932 novel Der Radetzkymarsch [The Radetzky March] left off.

The phase of Roth's life in which he wrote the novel was itself marked by the loss of his homeland and nostalgia. In spite of support from colleagues such as Stefan Zweig and Soma Morgenstern, in his Paris exile, work became increasingly difficult for the writer who was struggeling with his alcohol addiction and with financial problems. Due to time constraints, he incorporated materials and texts that were intended for particular projects into other works. Die Kapuzinergruft, for example, includes passages intended for a project with the working title Der Mann ohne Paß.

Die Kapuzinergruft was published by the Dutch exile publisher De Gemeenschap in 1938. With the impression of German troops marching into Austria still fresh, Roth concluded his novel with a topical ending: Trotta learns of the annexation in that chapter. The end of the novel was published in advance on 23 April 1938 in the exile journal Das Neue Tage-Buch with the title Der schwarze Freitag. Roth pressed the publisher to release the piece before another work already in a more advanced stage of production. The financial burden of this double production without revenue as well as the large advances that Roth received drove the publishing house to the verge of ruin.