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Death stuns me


What do I make of life?
Philip Roth Writer
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What do I make of it all? What do I make of life? I'm not able to conceptualise in... in that way. I... therefore, I'm a novelist. I have to be confronted with the... the human situation, the individual human situation, the individual encounter, the individual problem and then I can grasp it by... by presenting it as persuasively as I can. And so then I know about that and I know about that only for as long as I'm writing it. I don't know anything once I stop writing. I really think I'm quite stupid and dull outside of my writing. So I... all my intelligence is wrapped up in specific stories and I hope that in imagining the story that my intelligence, such as it is, is... is present in the representation. Not by my saying smart things, but just that my intelligence is expressed through the imagining of situations, in words. So I don't know what to say or make of life. I... I don't think I would be any more equipped to answer that question than I would have been at the age of 10. I... I look to others to... to do that, but my... all my brain power has to... has to do with specificity.

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: novelist, human condition, writing, intelligence, representation, individual

Duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013