Joseph Roth’s Hotels in the 1920s: The Displaced Male Subject after World War I

Chryssa Marinou

Abstract


The essay comparatively examines a small selection of Roth’s hotel writings, fiction and non-fiction, that span the decade of the 1920s, arguing that they foreground the hotel space as a stage that mirrors the period’s turbulent economic and political conditions: inflation, political unrest, riots, and uncertainty. The Polish Savoy featured in his Hotel Savoy (1924) and the other European hotels that Roth discusses in his newspaper articles ‘Millionaire for an Hour’ (1921), ‘Arrival in the Hotel’ (1929), ‘Leaving the Hotel’ (1929), and ‘The Patron’ (1929) emerge as par excellence sites that seem to embody the modern subject’s experience of historical change. Drawing on Bettina Matthias’s reading of the novel in The Hotel as Setting in Early 20th Century German and Austrian Literature (2006), I argue that the homonymous hotel in Hotel Savoy, as well as the unnamed hotels of the articles published in the Neue Berliner Zeitung and the Frankfurter Zeitung, are temporary and contingent spaces that only seemingly relieve the perennial roaming of the novel’s post-war subjects who consistently remain in limbo and in-between wanderings. In this ambiguous context of political, national, and social precariousness exemplified in the very shift of national borders and marked by the end of the Hapsburg Monarchy, Roth’s hotel communities are a response both to the homelessness generated by the havoc wreaked by war and to the dissolution or transformation of former established national entities.


Keywords


Joseph Roth; Siegfried Kracauer; Hotel manager; Precarity; Economy; Cosmopolis; Hotel life; Labour

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References


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