The first overview of all Joseph Roth’s journalism: traveling across a Europe in crisis, he declares,“I am a hotel citizen, a hotel patriot.”
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 World 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 who sent him on assignments throughout Germany - the 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.”
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 migr -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.