Three generations of a family in the loyal service of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy crystallize the ideological transition from the age of dynastic empire to the modern world of socialist nationalism. The erosion of the simple peasant faith of the Trotta men begins after the battle of Solferino, when Grandfather Trotta is elevated to baronial and legendary status by the Emperor's personal fiat. The hero of Solferino bequeaths a yearning to die for Habsburg Austria to the patriotic strains of the Radetzky March first to his son, a proper civil servant, then his grandson Carl Joseph, who takes up the military career of his forebear. His childish, heroic dreams turns to alcoholic confusion over a code of honor that seems inexplicably out of step with personal realities. At the turning point of the novel, the demented Carl Joseph orders his men to fire into a demonstration of workers who march to the tune of the Internationale. ""It almost looks as if God were refusing to be responsible for the world,"" remarks one of the characters. First published in 1932, this is limned with the slight absurdity of a lacy valentine, before Freud and on the threshold of Marx, when as long as peasant served aristocrat served king served God, all was right with the upper class world.