Monday, 18 July 2011

"The White Cities" by Joseph Roth

I recently read Roth's Radetzky March, a lengthy but well-written family story set, as the name suggests against the decline and fall of the Hapsburg Empire. Having also read something about Roth I knew that he had worked as a journalist and was therefore interested when I saw this title in Hampstead Books. I think I have blogged about them before. They operate by way of a number of tables in the Hampstead Community Centre just by the King William IV pub, whose cellar is reputedly haunted by the ghost of the publican's wife, murdered by her husband.

Roth spent most of his adult life living in France, a country with which he fell in love at first sight, as some of the glowing prose in the book testifies, since this is a collection of articles.mostly written for German newspapers. The most beautifully written describe the small market towns of Provence.

As events moved on in Germany, Roth, as both a Jew and an intellectual, felt unable to return after 1933. He died in Paris in 1939 ironically just before the calamity which he feared came to pass. The final entries, from 1937, which he calls "the fourth year of the German apocalypse", are dark indeed. Taking delivery of the author's copies of his new book, he reflects that it is his eighteenth, that fifteen of the previous seventeen have already been forgotten, and that even the forgotten ones have been banned in Germany.

No comments: