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5 March 1987
Hotel Savoy 
by Joseph Roth, translated by John Hoare.
Chatto, 183 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 7011 2879 8
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... When JosephRoth was asked once to write about his earliest memory, he described how as a baby he had seen his mother strip his cradle and hand it over to a strange woman, who ‘holds it to her chest, as though it ...

Empire of Signs

James Wood: Joseph Roth

4 March 1999
The String of Pearls 
by Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hofmann.
Granta, 224 pp., £12.99, May 1998, 1 86207 087 3
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... With JosephRoth, you begin – and end – with the prose. The great delight of this Austrian novelist, who wrote in the Twenties and Thirties, lies in his strange, nimble, curling sentences, which are always ...

Nobody is God

Robert Taubman

4 February 1982
Rabbit is Rich 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 467 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 233 97424 5
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Charlotte: Life or Theatre? 
by Charlotte Salomon.
Allen Lane, 784 pp., £30, September 1981, 0 7139 1425 4
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Weights and Measures 
by Joseph Roth.
Peter Owen, 150 pp., £7.50, January 1982, 0 7206 0562 8
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by Rolf Schneider.
Hamish Hamilton, 235 pp., £7.95, July 1981, 0 241 10347 9
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... Charlotte sometimes frees herself from her subjection to Daberlohn. It marvellously expresses the confidence, the self-deprecating humour and the sense of danger to be found in the whole work. JosephRoth was a survivor from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which he made the object of both affection and criticism in his novels. He is best-known for a family history, Radetsky March. Weights and ...

The Excavation

Joseph Roth, translated by Michael Hofmann

4 January 2001
... The summer​ lay there, waiting to finish. Autumn was when the strangers were expected, the hop merchants from Austria, Germany and England, the rich men off whom many people in our town made their livings. The summer lay there, and it spawned various illnesses. People got belly-aches and died from eating rotten fruit, the water ran out in the wells, a couple of pine forests burned down, and the dry ...

Three Poems

Michael Hofmann

4 August 1983
... unproficient amid the material exhilaration of abstract furniture, a new car on the Autobahn, electric pylons walking through the erasures in the Bayrischer Wald ... Once before, I left some lines of JosephRoth bleeding on your desk: ‘I had no father – that is, I never knew my father – but Zipper had one.That made my friend seem quite privileged,as though he had a parrot or a St Bernard.’ All ...
1 June 2000
Approximately Nowhere 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 77 pp., £7.99, April 1999, 0 571 19524 5
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... presence gives the poetry access to Germany before the Third Reich – before high aspiration became debased by Nazism. Hofmann is a prolific translator of German prose (Kafka, Wolfgang Koeppen, JosephRoth and currently Gert Hofmann). He is also editing the selected works of Rilke. His own poetry enjoys a tacit dialogue with the works of Rilke and Hofmannsthal, and suggests a sympathy for the ...

Vermicular Dither

Michael Hofmann: Stefan Zweig

28 January 2010
The World of Yesterday 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Anthea Bell.
Pushkin Press, 474 pp., £20, 1 906548 12 9
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... here, rediscovery of the century there, and indulgently reviewed more or less everywhere; this uniquely dreary and clothy sprog of the electric 1880s; this un-Austrian Austrian and un-Jewish Jew (JosephRoth – who has certainly spoiled me for Zweig – was both, to the max); not a pacifist much less an activist but a passivist; this professional adorer, schmoozer, inheritor and collector, owner of ...

Praying for an end

Michael Hofmann

30 January 1992
Scenes from a Disturbed Childhood 
by Adam Czerniawski.
Serpent’s Tail, 167 pp., £9.99, October 1991, 1 85242 241 6
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Crossing: The Discovery of Two Islands 
by Jakov Lind.
Methuen, 222 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 413 17640 1
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The Unheeded Warning 1918-1933 
by Manes Sperber, translated by Harry Zohn.
Holmes & Meier, 216 pp., £17.95, December 1991, 0 8419 1032 4
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... in a formal, three-piece style that is respected by the translator Harry Zohn. Not the least part of what interests me in Sperber comes from the fact that he was born ten years after the novelist JosephRoth, and that his life follows the same movements as Roth’s: born in a village in Galicia, came to Vienna as a child, went to Berlin in the Twenties, visited the Soviet Union, and went into exile ...

At the Orangerie

Michael Hofmann: Marc and Macke

20 June 2019
... In​ an essay entitled ‘Twenty Minutes from before the War’, JosephRoth describes how in the 1920s French cinema audiences (and no doubt others elsewhere in Europe) lapped up compilations of pre-1914 documentary footage. They watched endless shots of military parades and ...
23 October 1986
... it is an advantage to belong to a (not necessarily racial) minority. In other words, it can prove useful not to be pure. If I may return to the question: don’t you feel yourself, you Philip Roth, ‘rooted’ in your country, and at the same time ‘a mustard grain’? In your books I perceive a sharp mustard flavour. I think this is the meaning of your quotation from Arnaldo Momigliano ...


Michael Hofmann

23 May 1996
Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew 
by John Felstiner.
Yale, 344 pp., £19.95, June 1995, 0 300 06068 8
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by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris.
Sun & Moon, 261 pp., $21.95, September 1995, 1 55713 218 6
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... Jewish traditions, but also the deep love of German literature and culture that was often found, especially in Jewish populations, in the Eastern marches of Austria-Hungary (think of the Galician, JosephRoth). In Celan’s case, this came to him from his mother: German was, in every sense, his mother-tongue. Already as a boy, he loved poetry, first Goethe and Schiller, then Hölderlin, Heine, Trakl ...

Proust? Ha!

Michael Hofmann

21 August 1997
A Book of Memories 
by Péter Nádas, translated by Ivan Sanders and Imre Goldstein.
Cape, 706 pp., £16.99, August 1997, 9780224035248
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... Houses with venerable names and cosmopolitan traditions seem quite unembarrassed about putting out catalogues that are wall-to-wall English-language originals. Chatto – home of Chekhov, Proust and JosephRoth – recently went through three or four seasons without any translations at all. Obviously, publishing isn’t what it was, the bottom line has risen inexorably, there were all the huge and much ...


Michael Hofmann: Zagajewski’s Charm

15 December 2005
Selected Poems 
by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Clare Cavanagh, Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry and C.K. Williams.
Faber, 173 pp., £12.99, October 2004, 0 571 22425 3
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A Defence of Ardour: Essays 
by Adam Zagajewski.
Farrar, Straus, 198 pp., $14, October 2005, 0 374 52988 4
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... in lieu of mustangs or bulls. A great many of Zagajewski’s poems are – as here – dramas of presence and absence. ‘A Morning in Vicenza’ goes on to become an elegy to two admired friends, Joseph Brodsky and Krzysztof Kieslowski, but it could have gone anywhere (I quoted the first of its three stanzas). This unpredictability, storylessness, geographical unattachment, is a feature of ...

They can’t do anything to me

Jeremy Adler: Peter Singer

20 January 2005
Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna 
by Peter Singer.
Granta, 254 pp., £15.99, July 2004, 1 86207 696 0
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... historical Vienna so little that he confuses his experience of modern coffee houses with prewar coffee-house culture, more than once invoking its ‘coffee and cake’. The bourgeois consumption that JosephRoth mocks in Zipper and His Father has nothing to do with the rough and tumble of coffee-house debate. But in Vienna ‘life was good,’ Singer assures us. ‘It was not difficult to earn an income ...

Prophet in a Tuxedo

Richard J. Evans: Walter Rathenau

22 November 2012
Walther Rathenau: Weimar’s Fallen Statesman 
by Shulamit Volkov.
Yale, 240 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 300 14431 4
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... violent and extreme nationalism from which these young men drew inspiration. The killing sent a shockwave through the fledgling Weimar Republic. In the subsequent Reichstag debate, the chancellor, Joseph Wirth, caused uproar by accusing the right-wing press of inciting the murder. Pointing to the nationalist benches, he declared: ‘There stands the enemy who drips his poison into the wounds of a ...

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