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Report from a Parisian Paradise: Essays from France, 1925-1939 Hardcover – December, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (December 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393051455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393051452
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,800,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Roth moved to Paris from 1920s Berlin (the venue for his journalism collected in What I Saw, 2002). He sent German readers of newspapers such as Frankfurter Zeitung these observations of their late enemy. Roth became entranced with France and wrote of it in an imaginative manner that was allusive rather than direct, evocative rather than descriptive. Roth's dispatches from the cities of the Rhone Valley and Provence, for example, elliptically call forth their histories--Roth never bluntly declaims, in guidebook fashion, that popes resided at Avignon or Romans at Nimes. Rather, Roth paints from their ruins and the faces of the living inhabitants a pointillist picture of the past. The paradoxically indistinct yet precise style extends to his pictures of the Parisian bistro scene, to his tour of the Somme battlefield, and to his book reviews as well, which don't so much lay down opinions as build layers of satire and irony. A laconic but trenchant stylist, Roth remains worth reading for the singular way he imparts the ambience of Europe between wars. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

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See all 7 customer reviews
It's beautiful, lyrical, vivid... It's transcendent and luminous.
R. Decalo
Anyone interested in European culture from WWI to the outbreak of WWI will find that Roth fills in the nooks and crannies with his portraits of ordinary people.
David H. Gustafson
He can and will notice what's sordid and false there also, especially among those French who are inclined to accommodate the worst in Germany.
Giordano Bruno

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A true gift for anyone that loves writing, observation, and life, and an absolute gem for anyone that has ever been to or loved France. Heartbreakingly intelligent, perceptive, and compassionate writing from a master. Get this for yourself and all those you love (since you won't want to part with your copy).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Terrance Gelenter on November 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
We are in the midst of a Roth Renaissance--no, not Phillip, but Joseph, who in an all too brief career from 1921-1939 established himself as the greatest newspaper correspondent of his age.

His reports from and about Weimar Berlin (1921-1933), "What I Saw" are minutely observed, sharply etched portraits of the "demimondaine" life of a city that boasted 120 newspapers, 40 theaters and great symphonies--a magnet for the aspiring composers, actors and journalists living side-by-side with the emerging Nazi monster.

As the goosesteps of the black-booted Nazis became progressively louder, the wary Jewish journalist exiled himself to safety in France in 1925. Fifty of his Parisian gems, written between 1925-1939 can be found in "Report From A Parisian Paradise"

As an ardent Francophile you will appreciate Roth's letter to the editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper almost immediately upon arriving in Paris in which he explains that he is in "complete control of his skeptical intelligence" and though risking "sounding moronic",

"Paris is the capital of the world and you must come here. No one who hasn't been here can claim to be more than half human. Every cab driver here is wittier than our authors. I love all of the women here, even the oldest of them to the point of contemplating matrimony."

Even when describing the aftermath of unimaginable horror in this description of Maisonette, 'the most terrible battlefield on the Somme his poetic voice is resonant:

"The earth was turned over, spattered with chunks of limestone, and with mud that oozed up from the depths. There wasn't a blade of grass or vegetation. Millions of shells rained down. A division clung for months to a hillside.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on May 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thought I knew the full range of his gifts. I've been singing his virtues as one of the great fiction writers of the 20th C, the skeptical, ironic observer in his novellas of the collapse of the old European culture following World War 1, virtually unmatched in his ability to narrate sorrow in the simplest language. I've been awed by the Prophetic Roth. Now I find, especially in his travel writings, another Roth, a troubadour poet capable of lyrical joy when the subject is suited to poetry. That subject, above all, was France -- French history and culture, French freedom and tolerance, French grit and resilience, all in marked comparison to the state of society in the Germany sinking ever deeper into the muck of Nazism. On his first visit in 1925, Roth wrote of his first impression of 'southern/Roman' France:

"It takes eight hours to get from Paris to Lyons. On the way there is avery sudden change in the landscape. You come out of a tunnel into an abruptly southern scene. Precipitous slopes, split rocks revealing their inner geology, a deeper green, soft, pale-blue smoke of a stronger, decidedly cerulean hue. A couple of clouds stand idly and massively on the horizon, as if they weren't haze but dark stone. All things have sharper edges; the air is still; its waves don't flatten forms. Each has its unalterable contours. Nothings hovers and havers here. There is perfect conviction in everything, as if the objects were better informed about themselves and the position they took up in the world. Here you don't wonder. You don't have a hunch. You know."

But don't suppose that Roth will always romanticize Romance, that is, the Romance culture of ever-Roman France.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Decalo on February 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
I don't know how I happened upon this book, knowing nothing of Joseph Roth, but WOW, am I grateful I did! It's beautiful, lyrical, vivid... It's transcendent and luminous. I don't believe I was dying to visit France until reading Roth's love letter to it. Now... I would bring the book with me. It's absolutely magical.

I'm trying to think who he reminds me of, stylistically. I keep thinking Jeanette Winterson. Sometimes Rainer Maria Rilke. Absolutely beautiful writing. I'm bewitched! :)
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