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Searching for my burial plot leads me to write Sabbath's Theater

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I wanted to be an American
Philip Roth Writer
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Jews were the Americans I knew best. Mississippians were the Americans [William] Faulkner  knew best. Middle... Mid-westerners... Michiganders were the Americans that [Ernest] Hemingway knew best. The... the Jews were the Americans I knew best. But I never felt for a second – despite the fact that I knew there were enemies out there, real enemies and... and in America – I never felt for a second that I wasn't an American. That was always, I think, the... the powerful, the... maybe my strongest identity, my most powerful identity, and I wanted to be an American. That's why I read all those books. That's why I read all those... all that American literature. And I wasn't trying to graft myself onto the tree, I was trying to find out what the tree was like in all its branches.

Born in March 1933, American writer Philip Roth's fame rests on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrays in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he writes, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth has 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: USA, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway

Duration: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013