Philip Roth (Ecce Homo)

roth

Maybe it’s not much of an interview, but I’m still carrying around this bit with Philip Roth here in the New York Times Book Review. What I carry away is a form of expression entirely devoid of illusion regarding race, gender, and politics in America today, but also framed by life and death as viewed from the perspective of an eighty-five year old man. By “illusion” I mean the Freudian sense of wishes and wanting things to be okay, or better than the really are. Reading up on history, in particular on race in America and the Jewish experience in eastern Europe, there’s interesting shout outs to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People and Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom, as well as to Steven Zipperstein’s forthcoming book on the Kishinev pogrom. Roth expresses himself here without that kind of illusion, but also with a simple pleasure about what it means, at his age, to go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning, alive. Is this Stoicism? For Jewish philosophy, there are lessons to be learned about writing with such simple moral clarity.

 

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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