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The writer's work: recognising the gift from the screw-up


'Indignation', 'The Humbling' and 'Nemesis'
Philip Roth Writer
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The Indignation book I... I was thinking about when I was in college and the Korean War was on; I went into the army after the Korean War ended, but when we were in college, we were all scared the God-damned thing wasn't going to end, you know.  And so I wanted to remember that period and also the tremendous repressiveness of that period – sexual repressiveness in a college of the kind I went to. It was probably like most others, but it was really on the repressive end. And... and then, as I said to you earlier, my... my father was shaken by my independence when I got to be 17, 18, and was really driving me crazy; and so I... I took that stuff and put that in those books too. And so you mix a lot of stuff into the bowl, 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: Korean War

Duration: 57 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013