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The '90s


Israel and Operation Shylock
Philip Roth Writer
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Israel and its Jews gave me my subject. And it happened that a couple of years before I wrote the book I'd been lucky enough to land in Israel for a visit, when the trial was on of Ivan Demjanjuk, who was supposed to be... allegedly the vicious sadistic guard at Sobibor and Treblinka. And I... I happened to see in a newspaper that the trial was on, in the Jerusalem Post, and so I went over there to the hall where it was being held, and I went every day for as long so it was on. And I was riveted; to be sitting so close to this man was an astonishing thing, to be sitting so close to his victims was an... his alleged victims, was an astonishing thing; and watching the drama play out with him and his son who was there and his lawyers, and on the other hand with the... the Jews who... the Jewish survivors, who claimed he was the guard they'd known at Sobibor — it was compelling. So I wrote this book which has everything to do, as I remember it, with not just Demjanjuk, but with all... with other Jewish menaces and ghosts and phantoms and memories. 

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: Sobibor, Treblinka, Israel, Jerusalem Post, Ivan Demjanjuk

Duration: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013