Don't quite know how I've got the nerve to use such a terrible heading, just needed to get it out of the way really and it is appropriate here.
It seems to be happening with great regularity now, a grey winter's afternoon, woodburner gently humming away and I just pick up another Joseph Roth book and don't get up again until it's finished.
This time The Wandering Jews, written during the 1920's and finally published in 1937, a book that floors you, leaves you stunned and just sitting quietly listening to the silence.
I have rarely if ever detected anger in Joseph Roth's fiction to date and so I was intrigued to read this non-fiction account of the Jewish communities scattered across Europe and witness genuine and barely repressed fury in Roth's own foreword as he is watching and writing so prophetically about the rise of extreme German nationalism.
Joseph Roth left Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933 and became something of a wandering Jew himself though he makes no reference to his own background in the book.
This one a translation by Michael Hofmann and there was something in his preface that made me think of the writing of Penelope Fitzgerald as he describes Roth's " lifelong sympathies with 'simple people', the dispossessed 'guests on this earth' and his antipathy to a selfish, materialistic and increasingly homogenous bourgeoisie".
Penelope Fitzgerald commented during an interview "I have remained true to my deepest convictions - I mean to the courage of those who have been defeated, the weaknesses of the strong"
As Hofmann identifies, Joseph Roth senses that things will get steadily worse for the Jews of Europe but hopefully bearably so, "what happened instead was the Holocaust".
I think if you like Penelope you'll love Joseph, neither of them waste words and both seem to get to the kernel of the thing with the ease of an unassuming yet deep wisdom.