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The writer's working day


The ordeal of writing
Philip Roth Writer
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There is the excitement in writing that comes with discovery, completion, novelty, a new idea, so one is sustained by those... those various forms of excitement. But fundamentally, in my experience, it's an ordeal. I didn't know that at the beginning. Had I known it at the beginning, truly I might not have done it. But I was innocent, of course. I was young. I wanted to be a writer. So I began with these short stories, and a novel, and so on. But somewhere around the 10th year, it occurred to me that this wasn't a piece of cake, and I was sweating it out, sweating out realising the book in the early stages, sweating out coming up with a new book after I had finished, and so on. And as the books piled up, I... there was more and more of the ordeal. If I had a child who wanted to be a writer, I might try to discourage him or her. Many jobs are very hard. This is one of the very hard ones.

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: writing, ordeal, writer

Duration: 1 minute, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013