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Being an American
Philip Roth Writer
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If I hadn't been a writer, I might not have been as conscious of my American-ness as I have been. But it is a subject... it is my subject as much as anything else. And particularly so in the books I wrote in the '90s. So I've been an American since 1933 in the '90s. But there in the '90s the nature of my American-ness – how I connect to America, what events I lived through have meant to me as an American – that all became prominent in my thinking, my imagining.  So once you've written books like American Pastoral and I Married a Communist and The Human Stain, you've done a lot of thinking about the country, almost as much as an historian might do.  Your... your end goal is different but you've contemplated the country and the country's impact on you in a way that you ordinarily wouldn't in a life devoted to engineering or dentistry or selling, you know.  Which isn't to say you're any less an American in that way, but you're not so highly conscious an American, necessarily.  So, yes, I have thought about the America I've lived through, for the sake of my... for the sake of my work. 

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: America

Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013