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Fear and Indignation


The Korean War
Philip Roth Writer
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What did Korea mean to me? Well, it meant a threat. I was in college. The Korean War started in June of 1950. I started college in September of 1950, and all through the first three years of college the war was raging and we all wondered whether we were gonna have to fight there and I… cause if you left college you were gonna wind up in Korea. And there was an ROTC unit at Bucknell and you had to take one semester of ROTC, Officers… Reserve Officers Training School, Candidacy rather… and I just took the one semester and didn't go on. If I'd gone on for another year and a half I would have become an officer when I went in. I was quite stupid and didn't do that, but I had something in my head about the military on campus and some… some principle, some high principle that I had… quite stupid. And so I didn't go on to become an officer. And then it ended. It ended in '53 and we were safe, except that the draft didn't end, and so everybody was drafted.

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: Korea, Bucknell University, Reserve Officers Training Candidacy

Duration: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013