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The Prague Orgy, consisting of entries from protagonist Nathan Zuckerman's notebooks recording his sojourn among these outcast artists, completes the Nathan Zuckerman series. It provides a startling ending to Roth's intricately designed magnum opus on the unforeseen consequences of art.
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By Darwin8u on 05-08-18
One’s story isn’t a skin to be shed...
“One’s story isn’t a skin to be shed— it’s inescapable, one’s body and blood. You go on pumping it out till you die, the story veined with the themes of your life, the ever-recurring story that’s at once your invention and the invention of you.”
- Philip Roth, The Prague Orgy
Today has been quite a Roth day. I went to Temple Solel in Paradise Valley this AM to hear Dr. Brian Goodman speak on the secret Czech files on Philip Roth. Roth visited Czechoslovakia four times between 1972 and 1976 and was eventually kicked out for good. He was kicked out primarily for 1) hanging with dissident Czech writers (Ivan Klíma, Milan Kundera, Ludvík Vaculík), 2) his work publishing dissident Czech (and other Eastern Block writers through Penguin's Writers from The Other Europe, 3) and his work getting money to Czech writers and attention to them through PEN.
Anyway, the Zuckerman Unbound tetrology (The Ghost Writer*, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson, and The Prague Orgy) were all impacted with Roth's involvement with Czech writers and the post 1968 "Normalization" in Czechoslovakia. Roth's historical imagination was captured, and his writing was expanded. Roth might have been a completely different writer without his exposure and involvement with Czechoslovakia in the 70s.
As a reader of American fiction and a lover of Roth's writing, knowing what came after this period sent chills down my spine. Not only did Roth write his great navel gazing novels (see Zuckerman Bound, but he ended up writing some of the best American Fiction EVER. He grew, matured, and started hitting home runs (Operation Shylock: A Confession (93), Sabbath's Theatre (97), American Pastoral (98), The Human Stain (00)). Wow!
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