In 1929, Joseph Roth wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper for which he worked, declaring his credo as a journalist. ‘I don’t write “witty columns”. I paint the portrait of the age. I’m not a reporter, I’m a journalist; I’m not an editorial writer, I’m a poet.’ These may sound like lofty claims for a jobbing hack, but this volume – the first collection of his journalism to appear in English – more than validates them. In fact, he does himself a great disservice: he can be witty, as in his observation of a nude bather (‘he would like to watch himself enter the water – only his belly isn’t made of glass’) or a drunken man (‘he lay with his head slumped on the table, as though he were trying to saw through the fake marble with his nose’).