Review: The Legend of the Holy Drinker

Review: The Legend of the Holy DrinkerThe Legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth
Released by Atlas Contact on 12 September 2012
Genres: Classics
Pages: 83
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9789045041339
Source: Won

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This book, one of the most haunting things that Roth ever composed, was published in 1939, the year the author died. Like Andreas, the hero of the story, Roth drank himself to death in Paris, but this is not an autobiographical confession. It is a secular miracle-tale, in which the vagrant Andreas, after living under bridges, has a series of lucky breaks that lift him briefly onto a different plane of existence. The novella is extraordinarily compressed, dry-eyed and witty, despite its melancholic subject-matter.

Near the end of March, I got an email from the publisher saying that I was one of the winners of their survey. I didn’t remember taking the survey, nor did I remember there being a giveaway, but I was still very happy. The only thing was that I had no idea what kind of book I’d won, so I was quite surprised when this little book was brought to me.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker (or De Legende van de Heilige Drinker, as it’s called in Dutch), is about Andreas who doesn’t have any money and lives under bridges. At the beginning of the story, he gets money from a stranger and decides to spend it immediately. During the story he seems to get/find money everywhere he goes, though he always seems to spend it on alcohol.

What I liked:

I liked that the story was part graphic novel, I don’t read graphic novels often (I would love to though), so this was very nice. The drawings were simple, and they basically told the dialogue, while everything that was written was just the story around it.

What I didn’t like:

After reading it, I had no idea what I’d just read. Because it was translated from German (I think?) into Dutch, the writing was very childish, and I had the feeling I was reading a bedtime story, even though it is a story for ‘grown-ups’. This is one of the reasons I hardly ever read books that are translated into Dutch, because I just think the translated story is so childish though the original story is probably not.

In the end, I didn’t really like the story, not just because it’s not my genre, but because the story just didn’t interest me. I did give it an extra Dalek for the drawings though, because even though they are simple and in black and white, they made the story a bit more awesome.