the great unmentionable


Philip Roth knows he is running out of time. He speaks now of the end – certainly of the end of his writing life. He ought to have won the Nobel Prize long ago, but perhaps his work is simply too American for the august Swedes of the Nobel committee, who have grumbled about the parochialism of the American novel, of how it looks inward rather than out to the rest of the world. That is nonsense, of course. The greatest living American writers – Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo and, preeminently, Roth – are universalists who in radiant prose ask, again and again: what does it mean to be human and how should we act in a world that is as mysterious as it is indifferent to our fate? At the end of The Tempest, as he prepares to take his leave, Prospero, a magician of words, hints that “the story of my life” is ending, and now “Every third thought shall be my grave”. Roth has told the story of his life many times and in many different ways, and now he is done.

more from Jason Cowley at the FT here.