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REPORT FROM A PARISIAN PARADISE: Essays from France, 1925–1939

Joseph Roth, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator, Katharina Ochse, Selected by
Joseph Roth, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator, Katharina Ochse, Selected by , trans. from the German and with an intro. by Michael Hofmann. Norton $24.95 (301p) ISBN 978-0-393-05145-2
Reviewed on: 11/17/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Paperback - 301 pages - 978-0-393-32716-8
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Joseph Roth was a master of the feuilleton, the genre that, always in highly individual fashion, comprises some mix of travelogue, reportage, short story and cultural and political commentary. The genre truly flourished in the 1920s and, more somberly, in the exile from Nazi-dominated Germany of the 1930s. Roth left Germany in 1925 for France, where he seems to have felt more at home. Paris dazzled him, and it shows in his writing, but the reports from the provinces are even more spectacular. Roth is captivated by the light of the south and its heady ethnic mix, by the traces of history he finds in the cathedral of Avignon and the pulsing activity on the Marseilles docks. In Lyons he finds silk workers whose very souls reflect the "shiny, luminous, glowing threads" with which they work every day. Lively, happy France is Roth's foil for a Germany where there is no fun to be had and everyone thinks in categories. In Paris, eastern European Jews can live as they please, and no one pays much attention to French anti-Semites. Roth's observations were not always accurate, but no matter. It is his acute sense for sights, sounds and smells, his insightful intelligence and, most of all, his sparkling prose, captured so well by Michael Hofmann's English, that are important. This volume is an excellent companion to the compilation of Roth's Berlin dispatches, What I Saw, published by Norton last year. It is a joy to read, even when the events turn grim. 40 illus. not seen by PW. (Dec.)

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