The Silent Prophet was written as the result of Joseph Roth's visit to Moscow in 1926 when speculation about the fate of Trotsky was rife. Roth refered to this work as his 'Trotsky novel', but the experiences of books' hero, the Trotsky-like Friederich Kargan, are as recognisably those of a less well-known Jewish outsider, a perpetual exile searching for a place in the new Europe and a set of values to counter his own scepticism and growing disallusionment - Joseph Roth himself. Because he is born illegitimate, Friederich Kargan lacks even a social identity. Moving to Vienna he becomes involved both in revolutionary agitation and a love affair. Caught by the authorities on his first trip to Russia, he endures a Siberian interlude before escaping. Moving among various plotters and underground cabals across Europe, he eventually returns to Russia after the February Revolution. He becomes leader of the Red Army, but comes to realise during the civil war that the revolution seems to be over before it has begun; the cause has been betrayed, yesterday's proletariat has become today's bourgeoise; exile might offer the only choice.
The Silent Prophet is a beautifully descriptive journey from loneliness into an illusory worldliness and back into loneliness. It is a haunting study in alienation by a master of realistic imagination. The Silent Prophet by Joseph Roth is a haunting and poetic novel of alienation. In this excellent translation we see Roth draw on his own personal experiences as an 'outsider', as well as those of Leon Trotsky - hence Roth himself called this his 'Trotsky novel'. Although left unpublished until after Roth's death, this novel remains a true classic.