Absorbing ... The last hundred or so pages of Endless Flight are difficult to get through. By the end of the 1930s, Roth was a bloated, portly wreck, shuffling along on feet swollen by drink ... Pim, though an unlikely contender for a Roth biographer (his first published book was about dinosaurs), proves a sensitive, judicious and perceptive guide. What elevates Endless Flight, beyond the pathos of its narrative, is Pim’s discussion of Roth’s writing. Whereas most biographies settle for the breezily abstract, Pim devotes page after page of close reading to almost all of Roth’s novels ... Pim also carefully navigates Roth’s complex politics and Habsburg nostalgia.
Absorbing ... Endless Flight is a welcome aid for people like me who can’t read Roth, or his critics and biographers, in German, and for any English-language readers who might want an introduction to his work. And now, more than ever, is the time to read him.
Eloquent ... One of the very few blemishes on Endless Flight is the sheer length of its plot summaries, many of which feel unnecessary, particularly where Roth’s best-known works are concerned ... Such minor quibbles notwithstanding, Pim has given us an authoritative and long-overdue life of an author whose pertinence to our contemporary times is both indisputable and unsettling.
[Roth's] ingenious, tormented life is chronicled in English for the first time in Keiron Pim’s biography, Endless Flight — so comprehensive that it will be the authoritative account of Roth’s life for decades. We’ve had to wait this long because Roth’s isn’t the sort of life that can be charted by sitting in a library in Oxford ... This resplendent biography not only opens for us a window into a life unknown, but serves up a mirror inviting us to take a look at our own lives. We are left in no doubt that the forces that rended Roth’s world are still active in ours.
Kieron Pim – using, in the main, secondary sources – brings all the details of this consistently creative but wretched life together in an engrossing fashion, giving all the historical context we might need to understand the flows of European politics at the time. His analysis of Roth’s novels is clear and convincing, free of fanciful conjecture.
Pim’s book is a little longer than it needs to be, swollen by multi-page plot summaries of each novel and slow to get off the blocks, but his effort to understand the man in full is profound and the result feels definitive. His research empowers him to be rigorously sceptical of a writer who was an unreliable historian of both the empire and his own life, telling outrageous lies about his war record, his education, his birthplace and, most significantly, his family.
Keiron Pim’s is the first English-language biography of Roth, and what a superb book it is – impeccably researched, extremely readable and, it must be said, grimly relevant in the wake of Putin’s assault on Ukraine. With rare verve, Pim exalts Roth as a novelist of tragic pan-European yearning ... Unfailingly well-written and informative, Endless Flight is a grand tribute to one of the most discomfiting literary geniuses of the 20th century.
Keiron Pim’s elegant, detailed and judicious biography is the first comprehensive English-language introduction to an author whose astonishing literary talent consistently overrode the careless failures, debacles and staggering afflictions of his life ... Endless Flight is straight cradle-to-grave biography. The urge to give linear structure to a life that so often reeled and stumbled is understandable. Pim does a fine job of making his subject’s progress through the world legible ... The central part of Pim’s book contains lengthy disquisitions on the most important of Roth’s novels. Some of these synopses can feel a little protracted, but it’s these affecting, sometimes hallucinatory portraits of individuals and societies in crisis for which Roth is most remembered, and readers who don’t have time to turn to the originals will be grateful for them ... [A] substantial achievement.
Pim is particularly good on Roth’s Jewishness, his fascination with the east European Jews of his childhood, the antisemitism in wartime Galicia, in early 20th-century Vienna and, of course, in Nazi Germany ... The last chapters make desperate reading as Roth flees the Nazis. Drink finally killed him. He died in a Paris hospital, strapped to a hospital bed so he couldn’t escape. It’s a dark story, movingly told.
Deeply considered, rigorously researched and brimming with fascinating details and insights, it situates the man and his work in their wider political and social context ... The sheer weight of the material at times drags down the momentum of Pim’s narrative, and lengthy plot summaries of Roth’s novels fail to illuminate what makes these works so mesmerisingly original. But Endless Flight is unequivocally an invaluable contribution to our understanding of Roth in all his quixotic and maddening complexity.
The story is staggeringly depressing. Marvellous as his novels are, Roth proves a bracingly horrible presence ... Pim’s achievement is all the more impressive when you realise that this life of the supreme novelist of place was largely written remotely, in lockdown. He somehow stays sympathetic through the worst of Roth ... Another gripe is the long plot summaries of each of the novels, which seem unnecessary since they’ve all been recently published in English. But that’s a minor complaint.