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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393325822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393325829
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A Roth revival must be occurring. The writer's best novels from the 1920s and 1930s (e.g., The Radetzky March, 1932) remain in print. And first his short fiction (The Collected Stories of Joseph Roth [BKL F 15 02]) and now his journalism have been gathered together. A literally peripatetic writer--this volume's original German subtitle translates as "a reader for walkers"--Roth ambled about 1920s Berlin with an incisive eye for the German society of the time. Disordered by a devastating war, its live-for-the-day side is snared by Roth, as is the widespread contempt toward the Weimar Republic. His capturing of the zeitgeist is so different from, and deeper than, ordinary journalism that modern, quotation-hunting reporters could learn much from him. He didn't tell you Weimar was doomed, he showed you: in descriptions of the cultured interior of an assassinated minister's house; in portraits of Berlin's Jewish district; in a trip to the city morgue. Eminently deserving of a renaissance, Roth's articles are written with novelistic technique and will impress those who respect good writing. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“There is a poem on every page of Joseph Roth.” (Joseph Brodsky)

“Nonstop brilliance, irresistible charm and continuing relevance.” (Jeffrey Eugenides - New York Times Book Review)

“A singular achievement of both journalism and literature, a travel guide composed by a...poet who captured a city at its most cosmopolitan—and on the brink of collapse.” (Thane Rosenbaum - Washington Post Book World)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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The writing is poetic.
M. Patten
Roth covers an incredible time in German history when the decadent and the brilliant seduced one another without bothering to close the curtains on the neighbors.
David H. Gustafson
This book engaged me because each essay is a fresh look at an aspect of life in the German capital during this crucial period.
Joe McMahon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joseph Roth was a master journalist from Vienna who moved to Berlin on 1920 to investigate and report first hand on what he feared was a doomed megapolis. WHAT I SAW: REPORTS FROM BERLIN 1920-1933 is one of the most refreshingly original books to grace our shores in years. Roth was concerned with newspaper writing but he was also a poet of rare distinction and courage. These 'feuilletons' or short essays on observations reveal insights into the Berlin from the fall of the Weimar Republic to the rise of the Nazi reqime. Calling these small essays 'readers for walkers' Roth wanders the streets and mass transportation of Berlin, looking into the backyards of common day people, the Jewish neighborhoods/ghettoes, the photographs in the police files of the unknown dead victims found in the gutters, the high wired clubs of decadent diversions, buildings of history and of future, and all the while he maintains a beautiful descriptive, poetic style while keeping his eyes wide open to the pathetic prophecy of the doom of the great city of Berlin. His words: 'The story of how absolutism and corruption, tyranny and speculation, the knout and shabby real estate dealings, cruelty and greed, the pretense of tough law-abidingness and blathering wheeler-dealer stood shoulder to shoulder, digging foundations and building streets, and of how ignorance, poor taste, disaster, bad intentions and the occassional very happy accident have come together in building the capital of the German Reich...' are balanced on other pages of describing the beauty of the sky above Berlin, the pathos of the lonely and neglected poor people on the trains, and the wonder of the vaguely temporary air that surrounded the bulding of a city after The Great War.
Roth is able to tell us so much history in so brief a space.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By H. Schneider on September 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
Not everyone likes Berlin. Joseph Roth didn't. He had moved there from Vienna in 1920 to make a career as a journalist and novelist. He succeeded, he became a well known `feuilleton' writer and he found a publisher for his novels. But his heart was not in the place. By 1925 he was happy to get an assignment to Paris. He still visited Berlin regularly until events in 1933 made emigration final.
He wrote articles for several papers. He saw his job as feuilletonist in the synthesis of facts and artful language. This is Wiki's definition of the term:

Feuilleton ( a diminutive of French: feuillet, the leaf of a book) was originally a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles. The feuilleton may be described as a "talk of the town", and a contemporary English-language example of the form is the Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker.

In other words, he could write about whatever he pleased, and he did. This book collects articles that were published during his time in Berlin. He walked about and watched and listened and wrote. A feuilleton is not a political analysis, nor is it investigative reporting. We can't expect disclosures nor sharp analytical insights or political prophecies, but we do get astute observations and brilliant descriptions. He visits the Jewish quarters, meets refugees and asylum seekers, catches the mood in traffic and construction, visits places of culture and entertainment, including those where politics are made.
His visit to the place of the homeless reminded me of the totally different way that Orwell used in approaching the subject.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on October 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first 'feuilleton' in this thoughtful selection of Joseph Roth's newspaper articles from the 1920s sets the agenda. Roth wrote:
"Strolling around on a May morning, what do I care about the vast issues of world history.. or even the fate of some individual [who] in some way makes some lofty appeal to us? Confronted with the truly microscopic, all loftiness is hopeless, completely meaningless. The diminutive of the parts is more impressive than the monumentality of the whole. I no longer have any use for the sweeping gestures of heroes on the global stage. I'm going for a walk." There's a hint of Robert Walser, the happy-go-lucky flaneur, in this agenda, but Roth is too earnest to mean exactly what he says. All of us, himself included, spend most of our attention of the mere objects we encounter with our senses as we stroll through life. The unplanted vine curling up a wire fence holds our thoughts more than the fact that the fence surrounds a hospital. The sound of a civil defense siren being tested at noon on Wednesday occupies our mind more than the inevitability of atomic war. "In the face of the sunshine that spreads ruthlessly over the walls... anything puffed up and inessential can have no being. In the end ... I come to believe that everything we take seriously... is unimportant." Life, in other words, is a constant stroll through the immediate, through fleeting interactions with trivia. I dare say I agree; sitting at this keyboard, I'm more engrossed with the color of a strange wall than I am with world affairs. I have to assign my mind the task of thinking about Iran or global warming.
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