As Cyril Connolly ruefully remarked, most journalism does not, by its very nature, bear up to a second reading. But there are exceptions to the rule, as proved by this marvellous collection of pieces by the novelist Joseph Roth, who was born in Galicia in 1894 and died in alcoholic poverty in Paris in 1939. Roth was a prolific and peripatetic journalist, contributing evocative, prophetic and perceptive feuilletons to, in particular, the Frankfurter Zeitung. A selection of these has now been published by Granta, rendered into English by his long-standing translator, Michael Hofmann.
Roth was consumed by a melancholy but unillusioned nostalgia for the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which his childhood home had formed a part. ‘My strongest experience was the War and the destruction of my fatherland, the only one I ever had, the Dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary,’ he once wrote, and