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My cousin Irv


Adolescence and my family
Philip Roth Writer
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Of course I had problems growing up, more with my father than with my mother. From the time I started school when I was five years old my mother was afraid of me. She knew that I was quick, and I was extremely stubborn; I was known for that in the family, and she didn't really want to cross me. And she didn't, there was no need to. I did all my homework, I hung out with the right guys and so on. My father, when I became an adolescent, became to be very unnerved by my independence. And when I… my last year in high school, my first year of college, he was driving me crazy and we had a tremendous fight once, a verbal fight. And my brother said afterwards about that verbal fight, not too many years ago, he said to me, 'You claimed your independence that day'. But it was very painful to claim, it was very painful to claim.

When I had problems, who did I talk to? I talked to my brother. I didn't know who else there was to talk to. I had no teacher I could talk to. None of us did, really, although they were probably intelligent people, but it never dawned on me I could take a family problem in to my teachers.

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: growing up, adolescence, childhood, high school, fight, verbal fight, independence, brother, family problems

Duration: 1 minute, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013