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American Pastoral: a family destroyed


A book about the Vietnam war
Philip Roth Writer
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And finally, I saw the way to write this book, which was to take this man, Swede Levov, and put him at the centre of it. And then I could tell the story about this girl and her anti-war activities and what it was like in those years. I couldn't tell what it was like in those years, in those years, but some 15 years had to pass and then I could tell what it was like in those years. I was no foe of anti-war activists at all. I was, in my way, an anti-war activist, but there was an extreme edge of the anti-war movement which was violent. And the girl in the book – her name is Mary Levov – is wooed by that anti-war... that radical edge of the anti-war movement. And so that's what I wrote about.

So I never wrote a book about Hiroshima. It never touched my life immediately, nor did I have knowledge enough to write such a thing, but I did write something that had to do with the persecution of the Jews in World War II, in The Ghost Writer. I did that again in Operation Shylock at the Demjanjuk Trial. And then I wrote this book about... about the... the domestic turbulence created by the Vietnam War.

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: Swede Levov, Mary Levov, Vietnam, The Ghost Writer, Operation Shylock, Demjanjuk

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013