As a journalist, Joseph Roth's greatest strength, and perhaps his greatest weakness, was his self-professed "love" for his subjects. Roth, who is best known for his novels (particularly The Radetsky March
), was the star journalist for the Frankfurter Zeitung
in the early 1920s, when he began writing stories that led to The Wandering Jews
. This book, newly translated by Michael Hofmann, is a masterpiece of literary journalism whose political prescience (regarding tensions between Eastern and Western Jews, and the too-easy consolations of assimilation) is grounded in eclectic character studies (of, for instance, Parisian elites, a carnival performer from Radziwillow, a dock worker in Odessa). In an age of idea-driven journalism, when stories are often tailored to prove a writer's pre-existing thesis, Roth's lovingly inductive reasoning is refreshing. And his aphoristic insights are as spontaneous as they are circumspect. ("When a catastrophe occurs, people on hand are shocked into helpfulness".) The statement that best summarises Roth's belief about the unalterable fate of the Jews also epitomises the polished spontaneity of his style: Roth writes that wandering is "a tribulation that is appropriate to all Jews, and to all others besides. Lest we forget that nothing in this world endures, not even a home; and that our life is short, shorter even than the life of the elephant, the crocodile, and the crow. Even the parrots outlive us". --Michael Joseph Gross
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'This [is a] rich little book...Roth's gift of phrasing, which can switch without warning from lyrical sentiment to irony, never deserts him' Observer; 'This new book contains superb reportage' The Irish Times; 'Almost every page has flashes of the novelist's descriptive wit and the trained journalist's eye for a story' Sunday Telegraph; 'It shows some prophetic insights, and some illusions' Evening Standard; 'The Wandering Jews reconnects with the rich complexities of European Jewish culture before it was swallowed up by the Holocaust. Roth's brilliant and penetrating analysis proved tragically prophetic. At this distance, it gives a timeless perspective on the vulnerability of dispossessed people everywhere' The Times; 'Of the many books written about the Jewish people few have approached the clarity and exactness achieved in this short, astonishing study. Roth's reportage remains vivid and pertinent. As a cultural study of a homeless, persecuted race it is as perceptive as it is practical. His lightness of touch always prevails. Above all the fiction is unforgettable, the prose fluid and beautiful. It must also be said he is a forgotten master- the fiction is evocative, atmospheric and accessible. Read everything he has written - and wonder at one of literature's most enduring, beguiling and deserving voices' Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times; 'Roth...is one of the greatest. Why he was forgotten, I have no idea...In The Wandering Jews, a book dozens of times larger than itself in love and argument and stern sympathy...[Roth] also demonstrates that war is not necessary to break our faith. Only civilisation is. Only a writer who had chosen to live with that sound of shattering could do that.' New Statesman