The Bust of the Emperor Thoughts

In the reading, The Bust of the Emperor by Joseph Roth, the main idea that caught my attention was how the old Count had an on-going dilemma with nationality. As a man from the Austrian Empire, he was a part of a whole. However after WWI, his nationally identity was lost due to his home now residing in Poland (Hoffman, 234-5). Over the course of more years, the Count was still struggling with his national identity and having moved back to his home town, reverted back to the ways of the Empire with his old uniform and a bust of the Emperor Franz Joseph (Hoffman, 242-3). Overall, his national identity was with Austrian but he ended up burying his national identity. This being because he had possibly finally found peace in what his national identity was.

The questions I’d like to propose are as follows: How did the Count’s action in the bar in Switzerland correspond with him going back again to his “home”? Why did he end up going back to his “home” again after already having leaving it? Also, regarding the bust of the Emperor, was it possible that other people in his “home” felt the same way and saluted the bust with gratitude/ longing instead of just from ignorance as to what happened after WWI?

One Reply to “The Bust of the Emperor Thoughts”

  1. While I certainly agree that national identities and ill-defined political boundaries are at the center of The Bust of the Emperor, I think that there is certainly a narrative of a government and class struggle as well. Though clearly anecdotal, while under the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph, the peasantry of Lopatyny was fairly well cared for by Count Morstin but under the newly formed Polish government, there was no structure or people in place to provide for the less fortunate. I think that it is entirely possible that in this case, the reverence for the bust of the emperor may have come from a sort of longing as the peasantry were clearly better off under the emperor than they were under Poland. It feels to be false that the nation-states formed after the First World War could not care for their citizens as well as the archaic emperors and kings of a much older Europe, but in Lopatyny, this seems to be the case.

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