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The 'family drama'


My altruistic father
Philip Roth Writer
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My father was a hard working man, to put it mildly. He knew he had no credentials and all he had to offer his employer was his intensity and his energy, and that he did. And so I saw that growing up, that my father was gone in the morning when we got up at 7:30, and he came home at five o'clock and we had dinner that early, as most families on our street did. But he went back to work at six, and he was an insurance man and he would go back at six o'clock at night. When the husbands would come home, he would go to the houses and sell them insurance if he could, and he would get home at nine o'clock at night. So… and he did that on Saturdays as well, and sometimes on Sundays. But Sunday was reserved for family. So I saw this hardworking father at work and he was an extremely dutiful person. He couldn't resist a person in need, within the family. I… I saw him later on in life when he did the same… behaved the same with people outside of the family. But at this point when we were all family oriented he couldn't resist; he… if someone was in the hospital he was there to visit them. If something terrible had happened at somebody's house – an illness, a loss of some kind – he… he was there to comfort them. He was extremely responsive and responsible to his mother, who as I say, was an immigrant. His father had died when I was six years old and he… he and all his brothers looked after my grandmother.

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: father, hard work, life insurance company, family, family life, altruism

Duration: 2 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013