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Philip Roth

The American author Philip Roth (born 1933) used his Jewish upbringing and his college
days for the basis of many of his novels and other works.
In two of his novels, Zuckerman Unbound (1981) and The Anatomy Lesson (1983), Roth
expended thousands of words on the question of whether the novel he may be best known
for, Portnoy's Complaint (1969), could be considered anti-Semitic.
He introduced Franz Kafka as a character in his essay-story "Looking at Kafka," in which
he had the Czech writer coming to Newark to be his Hebrew teacher at the age of nine. In
Professor of Desire (1977) Roth's character David Kepesh journeys to Prague to visit
Kafka's home and discuss him with a Czech professor who is devoted to Melville. Henry
James' Portrait of a Lady becomes a point at issue with the hero of Letting Go (1962) and
the woman he is involved with, and The Breast (1972) concerns the overnight change of a
professor of literature into a six-foot mammary gland, recalling Gogol's The Nose and
Kafka's The Metamorphosis.
Newark, the city that was to serve as the home of the protagonist of his highly successful
Goodbye, Columbus (1959), for which he won the National Book Award when he was
only 26 and which was later made into a film. It is the story of a poor young Jewish man
from Newark, Rutgers, who has an affair with a wealthy young Jewish woman from the
nearby New Jersey suburbs. The romance ends because of their differences in values.
Alfred Kazin compared Roth's observations of the ways of the rich in this novella to F.
Scott Fitzgerald's. Portnoy's Complaint , Goodbye, Columbus seemed somewhat dated
by the end of the 1980's.
Many of the characters in his novels suggest Roth himself. In My Life as a Man (1970),
which some critics hold as one of his best works.Not all of Roth's novels follow the
theme of the male Jewish writer at work. In When She Was Good (1967) his main
character is a Protestant female, and the novel is set in the Midwest. Our Gang (1971) is
a political satire of the early 1970s opening with a quote from then President Richard
Nixon that "the unborn have rights" that are "recognized in law, recognized even in
principles expounded by the United Nations. The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography ; The
Counterlife ; In Deception(1990) he challenged both reader and critic to decide what was
fiction and what was autobiographical. Other major works published during the 1990's
included: Patrimony; Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993); Sabbath's Theater (1995),
American Pastoral (1997), The Dying Animal (2001) relates the further adventures of
David Kepesh, who had previously appeared in The Breast and The Professor of Desire.
Now divorced, white-haired, and a senior citizen, Kapeck finds his life in disarray after
he falls in love with a Cuban student. Also in 2001, Roth published Shop Talk: A Writer
and His Colleagues and Their Work, a collection of conversations that Roth has had with
contemporary writers from around the world.

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