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Aunt Ethel


Fact blending with fiction in The Plot Against America
Philip Roth Writer
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The characters in The Plot Against America are the Lindberghs as I imagined them in this story, Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and my family, among others: my mother, my father, my brother, me, my aunt, and my cousin Alvin. But there was no cousin Alvin. I needed a cousin Alvin, so I created a cousin Alvin. So I wasn't locked into my family as it was – I used my family whenever it yielded something, and if I needed somebody else, I brought them in, invented them. Alvin is... goes in to the... goes to fight the fascists in Europe and loses half his leg and comes back and, because there's nowhere for him to live, he lives with us and he sleeps in my bedroom with me. That never happened. I have no cousin Alvin. All my cousins who fought in the war are older cousins. None of them was wounded or killed, miraculously, and none of them ever lived with us. None of them ever slept in my bedroom with me. So where does it come from then?

The fame of the American writer Philip Roth (1933-2018) rested on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrayed in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he wrote, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth received a great many prestigious literary awards which include a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1997, and the 4th Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: The Plot Against America, Cousin Alvin, Charles Lindbergh, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Duration: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013