A European in Manhattan

When we think about Hitler’s exiles in New York it’s easy to imagine this huge influx flooding over a stable environment and disrupting it, but the city itself was off-kilter and often menacingly volatile… Still, after their European experiences, most refugees found New York’s socio-political uncertainties less disorienting than its physical magnitude and changeability…. When Bruno Walter first arrived in New York, the heat of his hotel room drove him out onto the streets though it was still before dawn.  On his initial promenade down Manhattan’s avenues, he imagined “with a shudder of horror” that he was “walking  at the bottom of immensely deep rocky canyons.” As the sun rose, his eyes caught sight of an enormous billboard on top of a building displaying the words “US Tires”. In a daze he thought to himself, “Yes, it does — true enough — but why is this fact being advertised to me from the rooftops?”

George Prochnik, “The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World”.

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