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Writing American Pastoral


Unlocking the pages
Philip Roth Writer
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How... how else did I unlock these 70 pages? By working; I didn't have any plan beforehand, just I... just sitting down and writing and beginning with two words. I began with two words which were Swede Levov, the name of this character. Once I had those two words, I had hundreds of pages to write. Who is he? What is he? What happens to him? Where is he? Where does he live? Who are the people around him? How is... how is he destroyed? How is he destroyed? This... this stellar citizen, this wonderful man, really – good looking, intelligent, athletic, star athlete, a good businessman, a hard worker, a loving father, a loving husband. He marries a New Jersey girl who is Miss New Jersey at the Miss America contest, I think in 1948 or something like that. So he... he has everything, as some people do, and he's brought down by a cataclysm in his family. So I had plenty to write.

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, New Jersey, Miss New Jersey, Miss America

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013