Joseph Roth’s Brilliant but Overly Optimistic Non-Fiction

Sept. 1 2015

The Austrian Jewish writer Joseph Roth (1894-1939) is best known for his many novels, but he was also a prolific author of non-fiction. Reviewing a recent collection of his journalistic pieces, translated into English and titled The Hotel Years, Malcom Forbes finds it rich in artistry if short on prescience:

Most items [in The Hotel Years] are choice cuts from Roth’s travels for the Frankfurter Zeitung through France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Albania, and the USSR. Appearing in English for the first time, all are marvels in miniature: lightly sketched but boldly colored people and places, moments in time, fleeting joys and sudden upheavals, upswings and downturns. All are studded with Roth’s trademark metaphors, aphorisms, and mots justes. . . .

[W]hile Roth is a master at freeze-framing a moment and replaying a memory, he offers little in The Hotel Years in the way of tentative peeks into the future—political projections, economic forecasts, the likely fates of individuals. In contrast, his novels are aswirl with dark prophesies and his busy correspondence is dotted with optimistic predictions—the former turning out to be depressingly true, the latter sadly too good to be true. . . . Similarly, in The Hotel Years, in the few instances where Roth tries to look ahead, he drastically underestimates the consequences. In Berlin in 1923 he watches two high-school kids chanting “Filthy Yids!” on the street and not one passerby censuring them. “That’s how law-abiding people are in Berlin,” Roth writes. “And that discipline is heading for a tragicomic ending.” Would that it were only tragicomic.

Most of the time, especially in the later pieces, we must make do with grim foreboding. In the bleak penultimate article, penned mere months before Roth’s death, a poor man struggling to stay afloat must report to the police. “He has a document with his name on it and where he comes from and where he lives. But what it doesn’t say is how long he can stay there, and where he’s allowed to go.”

Read more at American Interest

More about: Arts & Culture, Austria, Jewish literature, Joseph Roth, Journalism, Weimar Republic

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy