Joseph Roth (1894-1939), was the great elegist of the cosmopolitan, tolerant, and doomed culture that flourished in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Born into a Jewish family in Galcia, on the eastern edge of the empire, he was a prolific political journalist and novelist. On Hitler’s assumption of power, he was obliged to leave Germany, and Roth died in poverty in Paris.
Joseph Roth paints a vivid portrait of Emperor Napoleon’s last grab at glory, the hundred days spanning his escape from Elba to his final defeat at Waterloo. This particularly poignant work, set in the first half of 1815 and largely in Paris, is told from two perspectives, that of Napoleon himself and that of the lowly, devoted palace laundress Angelica—an unlucky creature who deeply loves him. In The Hundred Days, Roth refracts the deep sorrow of their intertwined fates.
Roth’s signature lyrical elegance and haunting atmospheric details sing in The Hundred Days. “There may be,” as James Wood has stated, “no modern writer more able to combine the novelistic and the poetic, to blend lusty, undamaged realism with sparkling powers of metaphor and simile.”
The Hotel Years gathers sixty-four feuilletons: on hotels; pains and pleasures; personalities; and the deteriorating international situation of the 1930s. Never before translated into English, these pieces begin in Vienna just at the end of the First War, and end in Paris near the outbreak of the Second World War. Roth, the great journalist of his day, needed journalism to survive: in his six-volume collected works in German, there are three of fiction and three of journalism. Beginning in 1921, Roth wrote mostly for the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung, which sent him on assignments throughout Germany−to write about inflation, the occupation, political assassinations−and abroad to the USSR, Italy, Poland and Albania. And always: “I celebrate my return to lobby and chandelier, porter and chambermaid.”
Joseph Roth’s final novel is a haunting elegy to the vanished world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a magically evocative paean to the passing of time and the loss of hope. The Emperor’s Tomb runs from 1913 to 1938, from the eve of one world war to the eve of the next, from disaster to disaster. It is also a love story for Vienna. Striped with beauty and written in short propulsive chapters — full of upheavels, reversals, and abrupt twists of plot — the novel powerfully sketches a time of change and loss. Prophetic and regretful, intuitive and exact, The Emperor’s Tomb tells of one man’s foppish, sleepwalking, spoiled youth and his struggle to come to terms with financial ruin, the coarsening of the world around him, and the first stirrings of Nazi barbarism.
In the small town of Progrody, Nissen Piczenik makes his living as the most respected coral merchant of the region. Nissen has never been outside of his town, deep in the Russian interior, and fantasizes that a Leviathan watches the coral reefs. When the sailor nephew of one of Progrody’s residents comes to visit, NIssen loses little time in befriending him for the purpose of learning about the sea. The sailor offers Nissen a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to Odessa and tour his ship. Nissen leaves his business during the peak coral season, and stays in Odessa for three weeks. But upon his return to Progrody, Nissen finds that a new coral merchant has moved into the neighboring town, and his coral is quickly becoming the most sought after. As his customers dwindle, life takes an evil twist for Nissen Piczenik. And the final decider of his fate may be the devil himself.
Joseph Roth has emerged as one of the greatest, certainly the most prescient, of the German writers of the entre-deux-geurres.
Roth’s journalism creates a vivid sense of a continent on the brink of change.
— Independent On Sunday
There are so many fantastic scenes, indelible characters and exquisite lines to marvel at…Dazzling, elegiac, mordant and harrowingly oracular.
— George Prochnik, New York Times
This wonderful selection of journalism from the Weimar years, a period Roth spent in Paris, Germany and on the road, displays genius from every angle, as a rebel, a loyalist and a man of compassion.
— Jan Morris, Daily Telegraph
A hugely significant and wonderfully haunting collection of Joseph Roth’s journalism from the 1920s and ’30s. Superbly translated by Michael Hofmann.
— William Boyd
His was a voice of uncowed conscience and irrepressible humanism, his body of work a damning j’accuse against the folly of the age. The dispatches in The Hotel Years constitute a compelling vindication of his claims for the feuilleton’s literary possibilities.
— Houman Barekat, Los Angeles Review of Books
Roth’s hotel years came to an abrupt end in the Old World. Thankfully, his account of them, and of the turbulent cross-currents of his age, live on in exquisite collections such as this one.
— Malcolm Forbes, The American Interest
The Hotel Years is a master class in journalism, and a reminder that when a writer can play multiple small notes, he creates a full composition that carries the depth of meaning.
— Juan Vidal, NPR Books
Dazzling, elegiac, mordant and harrowingly oracular by turn.
— George Prochnik, New York Times Book Review
Roth was as equally magisterial and entertaining in his journalism as he was in his novels, and Michael Hofmann’s new selection of Roth’s nonfiction, his fourteenth translation of Roth’s overall, is thoroughly addictive.
— André Naffis-Sahely, Paris Review
So consistently incisive that we devour the lot, compulsively, from cover to cover.
— Amanda Hopkinson, The Independent
A novel of great sensitivity and resonance. The Hundred Days is a meditation on the nature of greatness and love’s dogged loyalty, interwoven with the well-balanced irony that is Roth’s trademark. It’s a sad little gem.
— Boston Review
A singular achievement of both journalism and literature.
— Thane Rosenbaum, The Washington Post Book World
Roth captures and encapsulates Europe in those uncertain hours before the upheaval of a continent and the annihilation of a civilization.
— Cynthia Ozick
Nonstop brilliance, irresistible charm and continuing relevance.
— Jeffrey Eugenides, The New York Times Book Review
There is a poem on every page of Joseph Roth.
— Joseph Brodsky
The totality of Joseph Roth’s work is no less than a tragédie humaine achieved in the techniques of modern fiction.
— Nadine Gordimer
Mr. Hofmann’s bold translation is the carefully wrought work of a poet in full sympathy with his subject and his subject matter, in all its rootlessness, melancholy, and iconic brevity.
— The Economist
His books possess an eerie clairvoyant feel, shattering in their simplicity, exalting in their moral philosophical weight.