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How my mother taught me to type


The 'family drama'
Philip Roth Writer
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We went to see my grandmother every Sunday. They lived in another… another part of Newark; she lived with her daughter in another part of Newark, and every Sunday my brother and I went down there and we spent a few hours with my grandmother on my father's side. In the afternoon we went with my mother to visit her mother on my mother's side. So that's how we spent Sunday. I remember liking it. My brother says he hated it. Maybe I didn't like it as much as I think I do now. But I… I remember the family life was intense and I… you know, Max Brod says about Kafka – he was spellbound in the family circle. I wasn't spellbound, but I was gripped by the family drama, and… and in my grandmothers the pathos of their lives. Both of them had lost their husbands, neither had ever had any money and they didn't speak any English. They spoke Yiddish, this increased the pathos because between my grandmothers and me there was a lot of feeling; they were very loving women. But we couldn't speak to each other and this created a… a pathos in the relationship, so I got a good emotional education.


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: Newark, Max Brod, Franz Kafka

Duration: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013