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This report is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

The White Cities Joseph Roth

I became a journalist out of despair one day when I realised none of the other professions could satisfy me. The generation that opened and closed its puberty with verses wasn't mine, and I didn't belong either to the very latest, the one that becomes sexually mature through football, skiing and boxing. I only ever managed to ride a solid boneshaker without a freewheel, and my poetic talent never got beyond stilted phrases in a personal diary.

I've always been short on feeling. Ever since I acquired the faculty of thought I think without the least pity. As a child I fed flies to spiders. They've always been my favourite animals. Of all insects, apart from bed-bugs, spiders are the most intelligent. They stay put at the centre of circles they themselves have made, and oblige chance to nourish them. All animals hunt their prey. But one could say that spiders are reasonable, wise enough to understand that hunting for living beings is hopeless: only being patient is profitable.

I used to devour stories of prisoners who held conversations with spiders in the darkness and solitude of their cells. They excited my imagination, something I've never been lacking in anyway. I've always been a great dreamer, but I dream with my senses primed. I've never mistaken my dream for reality. Nevertheless, I tend to enter it so deeply I imagine living a second - another - reality.

When I reached the age of ...


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