The hotel that I love like a fatherland is situated in one of the great port cities of Europe, and the heavy gold Antiqua letters in which its banal name is spelled out shining across the roofs of the gently banked houses are in my eye metal flags, metal bannerets that instead of fluttering shine out their greeting. In the 1920s and 30s, Joseph Roth travelled extensively in Europe, leading a peripatetic life living in hotels and writing about the towns through which he passed. Incisive, nostalgic, curious and sharply observed – and collected together here for the first time – his pieces paint a picture of a continent racked by change yet clinging to tradition. From the ‘compulsive’ exercise regime of the Albanian army, the rickety industry of the new oil capital of Galicia, and ‘split and scalped’ houses of Tirana forced into modernity, to the individual and idiosyncratic characters that Roth encounters in his hotel stays, these tender and quietly dazzling vignettes form a series of literary postcards written from a bygone world, creeping towards world war.
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