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I Married a Communist


American Pastoral
Philip Roth Writer
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The book is about, I think it takes place in 1970, American Pastoral, but it was based on my experience of living through the '60s. Nothing like that happened to me, that isn't the way it's based on your experience – it's based on your knowledge, I should say. The '60s, from say, 1963, the Kennedy assassination, till 1974, I think that's the Nixon impeachment or resignation, those years were unlike any years I've ever known in America. They were alive with horror, the horror of the War, they were alive with menace, the menace of the sexual revolution, they were alive with the comedy of the sexual revolution, they were alive with the politics, the resistance to the politics, they were alive with resistance, resistance to authority, nothing like that had happened before, in my time.

And I somehow wanted to get all that into American Pastoral, but not through me, through this glove-maker; and I think I did. I don't know any more that's useful that I didn't put in that book, you know? 

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, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013