Roth, The Radetzky March, 1932
Translated by Eva Tucker Bases on an Earlier
Translation by Geoffry Dunlop
Death of Emperor Francis Joseph & Herr von Trotta
"Now he is dying," said the forester.
then, a priest with the Blessed Sacrament was going into the
They had just taken Francis Josephís temperature. It
was 102.7. "I see, I see," the Emperor said to the chaplain, "so
this is what it is like to die." He sat upright against the pillows.
He could hear the unceasing rain through the windows and the crunch
of peopleís feet on the gravel. It seemed to him that these sounds
were alternately far and away and near, and sometimes he was aware
that it was the rain which caused the soft gentle trickle outside
the window. But soon he had forgotten that it was the rain. He asked
the doctor a few times, "Why is it murmuring so?" For he could not
manage the word "trickling," although it was on the tip of his
tongue. But after he had inquired for the cause of the murmuring, he
believed that he was in fact hearing a murmuring sound. The rain
murmured, peopleís feet outside on the gravel murmured. Both the
word and the sounds it signified pleased Francis Joseph more and
more. And besides, it did not matter what he asked them, for they
could no longer hear him. He was only moving his lips, but to him it
felt as if he were speaking quite audibly, a little softly perhaps,
but as distinctly as for the past few days. At times, he was
surprised they did not answer him. But soon he forgot both what he
had asked for and his surprise. So he gave himself up to the curious
faint murmur of the world which went on living all around him while
he died, and he was like a child which gives up its struggle against
sleep, compelled by a cradle song and wrapped in it. He shut his
eyes, After a while he opened them again and looked at the plain
silver crucifix and the dazzling candles on the table waiting for
the priest. Then he knew that the priest would be there soon. And he
moved his lips and began, as he had been taught as a boy, "In
contrition and humility I confess my sins. . ." But they did not
hear this either. He saw at once that the chaplain was there.
"Youíve kept me waiting a long time," he said. "Iíve always been
arrogant," he said. He went through his sins, one by one, as listed
in the catechism. Iíve been Emperor too long, he thought. But it
felt just as if heíd said it aloud. "All men must die; the Emperor
dies." And at the same time, it seemed to him that part of him which
had been imperial was dying. "The war is a sin, too," he said aloud.
But the priest did not hear him. And Francis Joseph felt surprised
again. Every day the casualty list came, it had gone on since 1914.
"Finish it!" said Francis Joseph.
did not hear, "I wish Iíd been killed at Solferino," he said. They
did not hear. Perhaps, he thought, I am dead already and am speaking
as a dead man. Thatís why they canít hear me. And he fell asleep.
Outside, among the crowd, Herr von Trotta waited,
the son of the hero of Solferino, hat in hand, in the steadily
pouring rain. The trees in Schonbruun Park rustled, profusely
indefatigably, Dusk gathered. Inquisitive people came. The park
filled. The rain never stopped. The waiting people came and went.
Herr von Trotta stayed. Night fell, the steps were deserted, people
had gone home to bed. Herr von Trotta stood close to the door. He
could hear the sounds of carriages arriving and, sometimes, above
his head, a window was opened. Voices called. The door opened and
shut. Nobody noticed him. The rain streamed down steadily; gently
the trees rustled and sighed.
At last, bells began to toll. The District
Commissioner departed. He went down the shallow steps and back along
the avenue to the iron gate, which was open tonight. He walked the
whole long way back to the city, bareheaded, hat in hand. He met
nobody. He walked very slowly, like a mourner. The sky was gray by
the time he got to his hotel.
He went back home. It was raining in the district
town of W. Herr von Trotta summoned Fraulein Herschwitz and said,
"Iím going to bed, dear lady, I feel tired." And so, for the first
time in his life, he went to bed during the day.
He could not go to sleep. He sent for Dr Skowronnek.
"Dear Dr Skowronnek," he said, "will you please tell
them to bring the canary." They brought the canary across from
Jacques cottage. "Give it a bit of sugar, "said the District
Commissioner. So the canary got its bit of sugar. "A pretty pet,"
said Herr von Trotta.
Then the District Commissioner said, "Will you send
for the priest, please? But come back, wonít you."
So the doctor waited for the priest to come. Then he
went back. Old Herr Trotta was lying quite still among his pillows.
His eyes were half-closed. He said, "Take my hand, dear friend. Will
you bring the portrait?"
Dr Skowronnek found the study, climbed a chair, and
unhooked the portrait of the hero of Solferino. When he came back,
bearing the portrait in both hands, Herr von Trotta was no longer
capable of looking at it. Rain drummed gently against the panes.
Dr Skowronnek waited, the portrait of Solferino on
his knees. After a few minutes, he got up and went to take Her von
Trotta hand. He bent over the District Commissionerís chest, drew a
deep breath, and closed the dead manís eyes.
It was the day on which they buried the Emperor in
the Capuchin Vault. Three days later they lowered the District
Commissionerís corpse into the earth. The burgomaster of W. made a
speech. It began with the war, as all speeches did in those days.
The burgomaster went on to relate how Herr von Trotta had given his
only son to the Emperor and had nevertheless gone on living and
serving his country. Meanwhile, it drizzled steadily on the bare
head of all those gathered round the grave and there was a rustling,
trickling of leaves. Off sodden wreathes and dripping flowers.
Dr. Skowronnek, in the, to him, unfamiliar uniform
of a territorial medical officer, was doing his best to stand
smartly to attention, though he did not feel it in the least an
appropriate attitude, or expressive of grief for the dead, civilian
that he was. After all, death isnít a staff surgeon, thought the
doctor. He was one of the first to approach the grave. He declined
the spade which a gravedigger offered him but bent his back to take
a wet clod of earth, broke it up in his left hand, and, with his
right, strewed handful on the coffin. Then he stepped back. It
occurred to him that it was afternoon and nearly time for a game of
chess. But now there was no on to play with. All the same, he
decided to go to the cafť.
As they were walking out of the cemetery, the
burgomaster offered him a lift in his carriage. Dr Skowronnek
climbed into it. "It should like to have mentioned" said the
burgomaster, "that Herr von Trotta couldnít have survived the
Emperor. Donít you agree, Doctor?"
"I donít know," replied Dr Skowronnek, "I think
perhaps neither of them could survive Austria!"
He asked to be dropped outside the cafť. He went to
his usual table, as every day. There stood the chessboard, just as
the District Commissioner had not died. The waiter came to take it
away, but Skowronnek said, "Leave it, please," and played himself at
chess, smiling from time to time when he happened to look across at
the empty chair, listening to the quiet autumn rain rustling,
hissing, streaming outside the windows, trickling incessantly down
Roth, The Tale of the 1002nd
Translated by Michael Hofmann
Death of Captain of the Horse, Baron Alois Franz von
At that time, the Taittinger file was in the hands
of Councilor Sackenfeld at the War Ministry. He was in the process
of selecting the commission and naming the date for the Captainís
hearing, when he received their report, marked: "Highly
Confidential, ref. Taittinger." He took the file and the report to
Colonel Kalergi in the left wing of the building, Both men
understood immediately that now was not the moment to think of
reactivating Taittingerís career.
The Baron had to be told. Lieutenant Colonel Kalergi
buckled on his saber and went. He met Taittinger in his hotel: A
much changed, embittered, and, as it struck Kalergi, a suddenly aged
Taittinger. The small round coffee table at which he was seated in
the hotel lobby was covered by an enormous rectangular poster, which
the Baron was perusing with some consternation. He got to his feet
creakily. Taittinger looked as though he were using a stick, though
he wasnít. Kalergi sat down. Taittinger dispensed with the usual
formalities, the inquiry after his health and that of his wife and
"You know all about me, Kalergi," he began right
away. "You know that stupid business with that Schinagl girl and
Iíve told you about my son as well. Well, two weeks ago, I settled
everything. I bought the panopticum, you know, the new World
Bioscope Theater. Her son, or my son, Xandl Ė this wonít be new to
you either Ė has been arrested for attempted murder. I think it was,
and robbery Ė"
"Ah, that business!" said Kalergi. "I read about
"Well, then!" Taittinger went on. "Now, before
getting back into the army, I wanted to have put all that silly
stuff behind me, of course. But just a quarter of an hour ago,
Trummer, I canít tell you who that is now Ė but anyway, heís a
friend of Mizziís Ė brings me this placard. And tomorrow morning
itís going to be in the newspaper and plastered on the wall all over
the city." Taittinger pushed the placard across to Lieutenant
Colonel Kalergi, who read:
"On the occasion of the return visit of His Majesty
the Shah of Persia to the city of Vienna, the new World Bioscope
Theater proudly presents, in lifelike verisimilitude,
representations of the following scenes:
"1. The arrival of the great Shah with his aides at
the Franz-Joseph Station (Royal train not to scale).
"2. The Harem and Chief Eunuch of Tehran.
"3. The Viennese concubine, a child of the people
from Sievering, conducted to the Shah by important public figures
and subsequently ruler of the Harem in Persia.
"4. The remaining retinue of Persia.
Lieutenant Colonel Kalergi carefully folded up the
big poster, very slowly, without looking up. He was afraid of the
despair he would see in Taittingerís eyes. But he had come to tell
him the truth. He wanted to make a start. He patted down the folded
poster, and wondered how to begin.
"Iím impatient," said Taittinger. "Can you
understand that? All my life Iíve behaved like a fool. I can see
that now, but itís too late. Listen to this Ė I looked at myself in
the mirror today, and I saw Iím an old man. Looking at the poster
just now, I realized Iíve always been an idiot. Maybe I should have
gotten married to Helene. Now the armyís the only place for me. Ė
Whatís the latest on my petition?"
"Thatís what Iíve come to see you about," said the
"Well, my dear chap! That old business, your
as you call it! I just had a word with Sackenfeld about it.
Youíre going to have to wait: that dolt from Tehran has come at the
wrong time. The police are digging out the old files on you, and
youíre in the news again. All I can advise is: be patient!"
"So I wonít be able to rejoin?"
"No," said Kalergi. Your wretched story is back.
Best keep a low profile."
Taittinger merely said, "I see" and "Thank you!"
Then he was silent for a time. The evening was getting on: the
lights in the lobby were being lit. "Iíve had it, havenít I," said
Taittinger. He was silent again, and then, shrilly, in a voice that
seemed not to have come out of him at all.
"So my appeal hasnít got a chance?"
"Not for the moment!" replied Kalergi. "Letís sit
tight till the Persian business has gone away again." Ė And, to lead
his friend back into ordinary life, Kalergi added: "Why donít we go
and have a bit to eat at the Anchor?" Ė And he looked at his watch.
"Fine, Iíll just go and clean up!" said Taittinger.
"Wonít be a moment. Iím just going upstairs." He got up.
Five minutes later, Kalergi heard a shot. Its echo
rolled around on the staircases and down the corridors.
The Baron was found beside his desk, dead.
Evidently, he had been trying to write something, The revolver was
still in his right hand. His skull was shattered. His eyes bulged
out. Lieutenant Colonel Kalergi had difficulty closing them.
Taittinger was buried with customary military
honors. A platoon fired a salvo over the grave. Among the mourners
were the manager of the Prinz Eugen Hotel, Mizzi Schinagl, Magdalene
Kreutzer and Ignaz Trummer, Lieutenant Colonel Kalergi, and
Ministerial Councilor Sackenfeld.
Afterward, the Ministerial Councilor asked: "Why do
you think he killed himself?" You were there, so to speak!"
"God knows!" replied Kalergi, "I think he lost his
way in life. It happens. A man can lose his way!"
That was the only obituary for the ex-Captain of the Horse, Baron
Alois Franz von Taittinger.