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Sex in literature


Inventing a woman
Philip Roth Writer
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Inventing a woman. It's the same. The range of human emotions that a... a woman experiences is not different from the range of... emotions that a man does. Her... her interests in life, one has to imagine or ask or you've observed it. I've... I've observed many women, and have known intimately more than a few women. And the... the book itself brings forth the characters, man or woman.

In... in my book, The Human Stain, there's a character named Faunia Farley who is the paramour of the hero. And I... I rather like that portrait of her and I remember asking myself, when I was writing it, what is she interested in? What is she interested in? What does she talk about? Aside from the biographical information that you have to invent, where is she from, what was... what was her childhood like? But what – now, at the moment, in the book – what interests her? What does she hate? What frightens her? What's gotten her into this pickle, you know?

So I don't find that there's much difference between one and the other. Of course, I can... my... my books, in general, the major figure is a man. And... except for one book, When She Was Good, where the major figure is a woman, a young woman. I... I don't know that the task is any different with the one or the other.

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 Human Stain, When She Was Good, Faunia Farley

Duration: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013