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Big enough to deter

Jeff McMahan, 15 April 1982

Nuclear Illusion and Reality 
by Solly Zuckerman.
Collins, 154 pp., £7.50, January 1982, 0 00 216554 6
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... Lord Zuckermans recent pronouncements on the nuclear arms race have been favourably received by a large number of people of surprisingly divergent outlooks. His words are piously quoted by spokesmen for CND, and have been endorsed with enthusiasm by Lord Chalfont, the scourge of unilateralists ...

Tell us, Solly

Tim Radford: Solly Zuckerman, 20 September 2001

Solly ZuckermanA Scientist out of the Ordinary 
by John Peyton.
Murray, 252 pp., £22.50, May 2001, 9780719562839
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... Solly Zuckerman was one of a group of clear thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic who helped make science a normal part of government policy. He began at floor level in 1940, when the Royal Navy asked him to find out the force at which a leg would break. When a ship hit a mine and blew up, the vertical displacement of the deck was enough to snap the ankles of a seaman standing on it ...

Z/R

John Banville: Exit Zuckerman, 4 October 2007

Exit Ghost 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 292 pp., £16.99, October 2007, 978 0 224 08173 3
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... is that the great wave of Modernism was no more than a ripple by the time it reached New England’s shores. American writers simply did not have the time or energy to spare for all that self-scrutiny and existential doubt, that Eliotian difficulty. There was a job to be done, in that the young nation was still engaged in forging itself – as, indeed, it ...

Whakapapa

D.A.N. Jones, 21 November 1985

The Prague Orgy 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 89 pp., £5.95, October 1985, 0 224 02815 4
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Loyalties 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 378 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 7011 2843 7
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Cousin Rosamund 
by Rebecca West.
Macmillan, 295 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 333 39797 5
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The Battle of Pollocks Crossing 
by J.L. Carr.
Viking, 176 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 670 80559 9
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The Bone People 
by Keri Hulme.
Hodder, 450 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 340 37024 6
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... that Philip Roth explores in The Prague Orgy. His American hero, the famous Nathan Zuckerman, spends a few days in Czechoslovakia in 1976, is bugged the whole time and finally ushered out of the country by a passport officer with the courteous farewell: ‘Ah, Zuckerman, the Zionist agent. An honour to have ...

‘OK, holy man, try this

Ian Hamilton: The Hypothetical Philip Roth, 22 June 2000

The Human Stain 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 361 pp., £16.99, May 2000, 0 224 06090 2
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... if a decent, shamefaced Jewish boy were to extol the joys of masturbation? And what if we, Roth’s readers, could join in and ask, for instance, what if an earnest young Jewish novelist of the 1950s were to find himself unfairly chastised for his disloyalty to Jews? And what if this same novelist decided to respond by handing his chastisers something they ...

Facts Schmacts

John Sutherland, 16 February 1989

The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 328 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 224 02593 7
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... Authors can be terrible liars, and never more so than when they are in the autobiographical vein. Like salesmen, they are at their most dangerous when most sincere. Roth’s publishers trumpet The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography as the facts, a novelist’s autobiography – ‘Roth and his battles, defictionalised and unadorned ...

Philip Roth talks about his work

Philip Roth, 5 March 1987

... writing about Roth rather than his fiction. Why this persistence after all these years?If that’s  so, it may have to do with the intensity with which my fiction has focused upon the self-revealing dilemmas of a single, central character whose biography, in certain obvious details, overlaps with mine, and who is then assumed ‘to be’ me.The Ghost ...

Test Case

Robert Taubman, 3 September 1981

July’s People 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Cape, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 0 224 01932 5
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The Company of Women 
by Mary Gordon.
Cape, 291 pp., £6.50, July 1981, 0 224 01955 4
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Zuckerman Unbound 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 225 pp., £5.95, August 1981, 0 224 01974 0
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... when revolution breaks out in South Africa, Bam and Maureen Smales accept their house servant’s offer of refuge in his tribal village 600 kilometres from Johannesburg. They are all decent people – the two white liberals, their young children, the trusted servant, the peaceable villagers. All human instinct argues that this is not, after all, an ...

Dirty Jokes

Julian Symons, 13 September 1990

Brief Lives 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 217 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 224 02747 6
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Deception 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 208 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 224 03000 0
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Homeboy 
by Seth Morgan.
Chatto, 390 pp., £12.95, August 1990, 0 7011 3664 2
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... liked her, nor did she like me; strange, then, how we managed to keep up a sort of friendship for so long.’ The first half-dozen lines of Anita Brookner’s novel suggest the tone, straightforwardly realistic, and tell us the principal subject, the relationship between flamboyant upper-middle-class Julia and Fay, whose ...

Nicely! Nicely!

Jenny Turner, 13 May 1993

Operation Shylock 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 398 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 224 03009 4
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... he wrote ten, twenty, thirty years ago. There will be references, veiled or otherwise, to Roth’s personal life, to an insurance salesman father and an English actress wife, to a huge heart bypass operation and a beautiful old clapboard hideaway in Connecticut. You know it will be up to some sort of interplay between real life and fiction, author and ...

Dangerous Girls

Dale Peck, 3 July 1997

American Pastoral 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 423 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 224 05000 1
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... own version of the story to the events at hand; of the seemingly bland fare of Raymond Carver’s fiction, offered in full awareness that the reader will sit down at table with his own salt and pepper. It is not, however, a technique I associate with Philip Roth. Roth’s preferred method has been to bombard the reader ...

Just Folks

Michael Wood: Philip Roth’s counter-historical bestseller, 4 November 2004

The Plot against America 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 391 pp., £16.99, September 2004, 0 224 07453 9
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... Because what’s history?’ a character asks rhetorically in Philip Roth’s astonishing new novel. ‘History is everything that happens everywhere. Even here in Newark. Even here on Summit Avenue.’ And is history also what people are afraid of, even on Summit Avenue? In a material sense it can’t be, since we fear, by definition, what hasn’t happened yet ...

The Truth about Consuela

Tim Parks: Death and Philip Roth, 4 November 2010

Nemesis 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, October 2010, 978 0 224 08953 1
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... and sex, did not get a good press and have since disappeared from the shelves, while Moravia’s earlier work will be a part of Italian education for decades to come. Translating, I was struck by the almost cavalier perfunctoriness of the late books, combined with a ruthless narrative dispatch. The weightiest themes were tossed off with an insouciance that ...

Hysterical Vigour

Frank Kermode, 23 October 2008

Indignation 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 233 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 0 224 08513 7
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... who refuse to be bondslaves! With our very flesh and blood We will build a new Great Wall! China’s masses have met the day of danger. Indignation fills the hearts of all of our countrymen, Arise! Arise! Arise! Marcus Messner silently recites these lines, which he had learned by heart in grade school during the Second World War, as a way of enduring ...

In the Egosphere

Adam Mars-Jones: The Plot against Roth, 23 January 2014

Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books 
by Claudia Roth Pierpont.
Cape, 353 pp., £25, January 2014, 978 0 224 09903 5
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... unexpected outrage’ aroused in some Jewish circles by the magazine publication of Roth’s early short stories (reprinted as part of Goodbye, Columbus, 1959). If the adversarial role was forced on Philip Roth then it has to be said that he has made it his own. Was parochial hostility to someone showing Jews in a bad light really any more unexpected ...

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