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Philip Roth and the search for a Jewish subject

Roth and the Jewish-American novelists who followed him had very different attitudes to their cultural inheritance

By David Herman  

Philip Roth attending the 53rd National Book Awards ceremony in 2002. Photo: PA

What is striking about the flood of tributes to Philip Roth since his death at the age of 85 is not what has been said but what is missing. There has been plenty about Roth and sex, Roth and Jews, Roth and America. How funny he was, what a great conversationalist and, above all, how talented.

There has been remarkably little, however, about Roth and the great theme of 20th-century Jewish-American literature: the often difficult search…

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