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The Portnoy scandal


Portnoy’s Complaint: my mother’s question
Philip Roth Writer
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But my mother did say to me at one point, she… something was bothering her. She finally said to me, 'Philip, are you anti-Semitic?' And so I said, 'Ma what do you think? What do you think? You've known me since kindergarten right, and before?' But they were getting that from the Rabbi, 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: anti-Semitic, Rabbi, mother

Duration: 33 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013