Thursday, 23 August 2012


Gradually the overall white aspect of the city yields grey stripes of streets, the zigzags of hurried, crooked flights of stairs, the forms of people, the colourful flags of washing hung out across the street, the brown tubs outside the front doors, the narrow streaks of grime in the gutters, the grey canopies of the street traders, the dark masses of shellfish, the bright shop signs, the golden windows in which the sun swims, and the velvet green of the trees.

Here everything ostensibly permanent is broken up. Here, it is re-assembled again. Here, there is continual rebuilding and demolition. No time, no power, no faith, no understanding holds for ever here. What is foreign? The foreign is at hand. What is at hand? The next wave will wash it away. What is now? It's already over. What is dead? It comes bobbing up again.

Joseph Roth, Marseilles, 1925 (trans. Michael Hofmann)