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What it is to be a Jew


My neighbor the amputee
Philip Roth Writer
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And then, lo and behold, I realised that I knew somebody who was an amputee. I'm so used to seeing him walking around, I forget he has a prosthesis on. It's a neighbor of mine up in Connecticut. And, so I called him up and asked if I could come over and talk to him. He was... he got it in World War II. And he was great. He took off his prosthetic device. He let me feel his amputation and see what it looked like. Then he put the prosthesis on, and then at some point he tried to show me what it was like to walk with one. So we did all that stuff. So the stuff starts to… the material starts to pour in. Now, you're going to have to put it through your... your mill here, you know, and refine out what's no good, but it's a great help to have this stuff. But not before – only when you need it. So I got to meet Yolande Betbeze, Miss America of 1949, I got to feel an amputated stump from 1944, about. But mostly I stay at home alone in a room, writing.

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: Yolande Betbeze

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013