“May 27, 1939 was the day the incessant wandering that had led Joseph Roth through a change of names, religions, political allegiances and literary styles would finally come to an end at Necker Hospital in Paris after four days of delirium tremens in which he never regained consciousness. He had been drinking himself to death for years, a personal fall intricately related to the rise of Hitler and Stalin and what they were doing to the Europe he had mythologized in his novels with such poetry and loving irony.”
The above paragraph is the beginning of an almost finished essay of mine entitled “Deaths of the Artists: May 27, 1939” on, among other things, the death of the great writer Joseph Roth, which took place 75 years ago today. Luckily, times have changed and it’s impossible to imagine a writer being in despair over the rise of xenophobic, anti-Semitic right-wing political parties in Europe or a menacing, unpredictable megalomaniac in Moscow. Thank goodness for progress!