Cover image for What I saw : reports from Berlin, 1920-1933
What I saw : reports from Berlin, 1920-1933
Roth, Joseph, 1894-1939.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Joseph Roth in Berlin. English
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2003]

Physical Description:
227 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DD866 .R6813 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DD866 .R6813 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DD866 .R6813 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The Joseph Roth revival has finally gone mainstream with the thunderous reception for What I Saw, a book that has become a classic with five hardcover printings. Glowingly reviewed, What I Saw introduces a new generation to the genius of this tortured author with its "nonstop brilliance, irresistible charm and continuing relevance" (Jeffrey Eugenides, The New York Times Book Review). As if anticipating Christopher Isherwood, the book re-creates the tragicomic world of 1920s Berlin as seen by its greatest journalistic eyewitness. In 1920, Joseph Roth, the most renowned German correspondent of his age, arrived in Berlin, the capital of the Weimar Republic. He produced a series of impressionistic and political essays that influenced an entire generation of writers, including Thomas Mann and the young Christopher Isherwood. Translated and collected here for the first time, these pieces record the violent social and political paroxysms that constantly threatened to undo the fragile democracy that was the Weimar Republic. Roth, like no other German writer of his time, ventured beyond Berlin's official veneer to the heart of the city, chronicling the lives of its forgotten inhabitants: the war cripples, the Jewish immigrants from the Pale, the criminals, the bathhouse denizens, and the nameless dead who filled the morgues. Warning early on of the dangers posed by the Nazis, Roth evoked a landscape of moral bankruptcy and debauched beauty; a memorable portrait of a city and a time of commingled hope and chaos. What I Saw, like no other existing work, records the violent social and political paroxysms that compromised and ultimately destroyed the precarious democracy that was the Weimar Republic.

Author Notes

Author and journalist Joseph Roth was born on September 2, 1894. During World War I, he served in the Austro-Hungarian army from 1916 to 1918. Afterwards, he worked as a journalist in Vienna and in Berlin. His best-known works are The Radetzky March and Job. He died in Paris on May 27, 1939 and is buried in Thiais Cemetery.

(Bowker Author Biography) Joseph Roth is the author of such classics as The Radetzky March and The Emperor's Tomb. He died in Paris in 1939.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A Roth revival must be occurring. The writer's best novels from the 1920s and 1930s (e.g., The Radetzky March, 1932) remain in print. And first his short fiction (The Collected Stories of Joseph Roth [BKL F 15 02]) and now his journalism have been gathered together. A literally peripatetic writer--this volume's original German subtitle translates as "a reader for walkers" --Roth ambled about 1920s Berlin with an incisive eye for the German society of the time. Disordered by a devastating war, its live-for-the-day side is snared by Roth, as is the widespread contempt toward the Weimar Republic. His capturing of the zeitgeist is so different from, and deeper than, ordinary journalism that modern, quotation-hunting reporters could learn much from him. He didn't tell you Weimar was doomed, he showed you: in descriptions of the cultured interior of an assassinated minister's house; in portraits of Berlin's Jewish district; in a trip to the city morgue. Eminently deserving of a renaissance, Roth's articles are written with novelistic technique and will impress those who respect good writing. --Gilbert Taylor

Choice Review

Roth was a journalist by trade, but these short essays take the form of what the translator calls a feuilleton, using a "biting, economical style." They are the same selection of Roth's publications published in German in 1996, focusing, save for the final one, on his observations about Berlin. The English translations are remarkably sensitive to the original, and amazingly are so sensitive to English that one would not know they were translations at all. The essays are generally arranged in sections of four or five according to the section headings; for instance, "Traffic" and "Berlin's Pleasure Industry." These suggest that Roth had a keen eye for detail and an aptitude for relating apparently unlike topics. The final essay, originally published in French in Paris in 1933, is a tribute to the Jews who were important in German literature and journalism. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels. H. D. Andrews emeritus, Towson University

Table of Contents

Translator's Introductionp. 11
Part I What I Saw
1 Going for a Walkp. 23
Part II The Jewish Quarter
2 The Orient on Hirtenstrassep. 31
3 Refugees from the Eastp. 35
4 Solomon's Temple in Berlinp. 41
5 Wailing Wallp. 45
Part III Displaced Persons
6 Nights in Divesp. 53
7 With the Homelessp. 63
8 The Steam Baths at Nightp. 69
9 Schiller Parkp. 75
10 The Unnamed Deadp. 79
Part IV Traffic
11 The Resurrectionp. 85
12 The Ride Past the Housesp. 89
13 Passengers with Heavy Loadsp. 93
14 Some Reflections on Trafficp. 97
15 Affirmation of the Triangular Railway Junctionp. 105
Part V Berlin Under Construction
16 Skyscrapersp. 111
17 Architecturep. 115
18 The Very Large Department Storep. 119
19 "Stone Berlin"p. 125
Part VI Bourgeoisie and Bohemians
20 The Man in the Barbershopp. 131
21 Richard Without a Kingdomp. 135
22 The Word at Schwannecke'sp. 141
23 The Kurfurstendammp. 147
Part VII Berlin's Pleasure Industry
24 The Philosophy of the Panopticump. 153
25 An Hour at the Amusement Parkp. 157
26 The Twelfth Berlin Six-Day Racesp. 161
27 The Conversion of a Sinner in Berlin's UFA Palacep. 167
28 The Berlin Pleasure Industryp. 171
Part VIII An Apolitical Observer Goes to the Reichstag
29 The Tour Around the Victory Columnp. 179
30 A Visit to the Rathenau Museump. 183
31 Election Campaign in Berlinp. 189
32 An Apolitical Observer Goes to the Reichstagp. 193
33 Farewell to the Deadp. 199
Part IX Look Back in Anger
34 The Auto-da-Fe of the Mindp. 207
Credits and Sourcesp. 219
Indexp. 221
About the Authorp. 225
About the Translatorp. 227