cover image The Hotel Years

The Hotel Years

Joseph Roth, edited and trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2487-1

Roth (1894–1939) might be best remembered for novels such as The Radetzky March, but this collection of short newspaper pieces shows that his literary skill extended far beyond the fictional worlds he created. The selections, most written in the 1920s, originate in Roth’s work as a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung and other newspapers. Hofmann, who has translated Roth’s work previously (What I Saw), organizes the collection by subject rather than chronology. He groups together sketches concerned with specific countries, such as Albania, Austria, and the U.S.S.R., and assembles others into thematically linked sections on hotels, death, and “pleasures and pains.” The opening section, on Germany between the world wars, does not contain the book’s strongest material, but does show how Roth focused on portraying the eye-catching details of everyday life. When he turns his gaze onto subjects unfamiliar to modern American readers, such as émigré-filled hotels and Albanian president (later king) Ahmed Zogu, Roth’s voice is at its most pointed and eloquent. Roth evokes the melancholy of a vanished Europe in this poetic and sharp-eyed collection of journalistic sketches. [em](Sept.) [/em]