|What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933
It's amazing to me how I can read something (I bought the book when it first came out because I've been a fan of Joseph Roth since the reissue of his 1932 novel, The Radetzky March) but then pick it up eight years later and have nearly forgotten it all. I was left with impressions, mainly of what a superlative writer Roth was. Take paragraphs such as this one:
Evening comes, an overhead light goes on. Its illumination is oily and greasy; it burns in a haze like a star in a sea of fog. We ride past lit-up advertisements, past a world without burdens, commercial hymns to laundry soap, cigars, shoe polish, and bootlaces suddenly shine forth against the darkened sky. It's the time of day when the world goes to the theater, to experience human destinies pm expensive stages, and riding in this train are the sublime tragedies and tragic farces, the passengers with heavy loads. (Translated by Michael Hoffman).
|Joseph Roth, 1894-1939
To me, this is the best part of travelling: discovering (or rediscovering) writers whose work you may not know but whose connection to a city or country or region suddenly open up that place and make it a real land full of real individuals, contextualizing its history, giving a glimpse of the lives out on its streets or behind its stone walls.
Lucky for me, I have another Joseph Roth collection (which contains one of the most fascinating short stories I've ever read and one I most certainly do remember: his last story, written just before his death in Paris, called The Legend of the Holy Drinker).