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At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful 23-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries.
Focusing on Cantor's dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground and on the everyday realities he faces, Roth leads us through every inch of the emotions such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, anger, bewilderment, suffering, and pain. Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine childrens summer camp high in the Poconos whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants", Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantors passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood.
Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roths late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?
"The fourth in the great and undiminished Roth's recent cycle of short novels.... [A]s exceptional as those novels are, this latest in the series far exceeds its predecessors in both emotion and intellect." ( Booklist)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jim "The Impatient" on 02-19-15
This Kid got it, that kid got it...
After listening and liking Indignation, I wanted to listen to more by Roth. This book is good in the historical sense. You get a feeling of what life was like back then, especially for Jews and all kids. My dad was born in 1935 and he never learned how to swim, cause his parents would not let him go to a public pool, afraid he would get polio. It was a scary time for Americans.
While I believe it is important to be reminded, I believe a novel should be a novel and a research paper a research paper. This book meanders all over the place. Character development was nihil. Roth gives us a list of kids who contract the disease, he gives us a list of what the common people believe causes it, but it is at the cost of the story or lack there of. He also gives us commentary. I might as well had taken a college course.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
By Mirek on 11-21-10
Without pathos about life...
After „The Dying Animal” by Philip Roth, I knew that he is a great and deep writer.
However — his latest novel „Nemesis” is one of the best books I ever read.
It is a story of young man, the teacher of physical education and passionate javelin thrower. The story is set in 1944 during one of the worst American polio epidemics. As he could not go to the army, the hero was already discontent of himself when the plot of events related to the epidemics and the events of his personal life caused a major self oppression and the unbearable conviction of guilt.
It is a great book about insecurity a man can experience, about guilt and punishment and about human rebellion against G-d due to overwhelming sense of undeserved suffering of many...
And ultimately it is a book about the triumph of human freedom of choice...
In his short book, and in the simple words, Roth once again comes to the main theme of Job's bible book (without, of course, any direct reference to it) and to the most important problems that face humans — without pathos and sanctimonious deliberations...
THE great novel.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful