The Legend of the Holy Drinker

The Legend of the Holy Drinker by Joseph Roth – Reviewed by Guy Portman

The Legend of the Holy Drinker

{Contains Some Spoilers}

The Legend of the Holy Drinker is a short novella written by the iconic Austrian-Jewish author and journalist Joseph Roth, best known for his seminal work, The Radetzky March.  Set in Paris between the wars the story is about an alcoholic tramp by the name of Andreas, who lives under bridges of the river Seine.  Andreas finds himself in luck when he is given two hundred francs by a stranger, which allows him to recapture something of his pre-tramp existence.  Our generous spirited protagonist plans to repay the money he has borrowed to the shrine of Sainte Therese, affectionately referred to in the book as ‘Little Therese’.  However, every time he is about to make his donation circumstances of the drinking variety end up getting in the way, and despite his best intentions Andreas perishes before he gets the opportunity to do so.

Joseph Roth succumbed to a premature alcohol related death in Paris shortly after finishing this allegorical tale about seeking redemption.  The Legend of the Holy Drinker is a compact, concise, compassionate and profound work by an accomplished author, who is only now nearly eighty years after his death getting the attention he deserves in the English speaking world.


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