Roth y su Nemesis

 

De Philip Roth (Newark, 1933) se podría afirmar lo que dijo Borges a propósito de Quevedo: «No es un escritor, es una literatura». Desde que publicó su cuarto libro, El Lamento de Portnoy (1969), se convirtió en uno de los referentes imprescindibles del panorama literario universal. Dentro de su vasta producción, hay varias obras de gran envergadura, como la serie de novelas protagonizadas por su alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, personaje más real que lo que da de sí la realidad, y que permitió a Roth llevar a cabo una serie de complejas exploraciones acerca del sentido del arte y de la vida. Sus seguidores (que en España, donde le edita Mondadori, son legión) están de enhorabuena: Su última obra, Nemesis, recién publicada en Estados Unidos, nos devuelve al mejor Roth tras una década de producción algo desigual y excesiva. O al menos así lo ha considerado la crítica del país.

Uno de los mayores logros de Roth como narrador es que obliga a los lectores a adentrarse con él en regiones sumamente oscuras de la experiencia humana. Ello lo convierte en un narrador a quien puede resultar incómodo seguir. Se ha dicho de él que nadie ha explorado mejor en nuestro tiempo el misterio de la sexualidad. Otras cumbres de su arriesgada propuesta narrativa son El teatro de Sabbath (1995),Pastoral Americana (1997), y La mancha humana (2000). Aunque es cierto que en algunas novelas ha puesto a prueba las posibilidades técnicas del arte narrativo, como en El pecho(1972) o La contravida (1986), la verdadera fuerza de Roth está en su capacidad para obligarnos a mantener la mirada abierta en los momentos más duros que nos plantea a todos el reto cotidiano de la existencia. Así, enPatrimonio (1991), el protagonista (que puede o no ser el propio Roth) sostiene un duelo insoportable con lo que significa ser testigo de la agonía y muerte de su padre. Otro tanto hace, en distintos momentos de su obra, con la enfermedad o la vejez. El reto es difícil porque al hacerlo logra alejarse de lo que es en sí aborrecible y doloroso para trascenderlo a través del arte. No es que borre la distancia entre realidad y ficción, como se ha dicho, sino que nos sitúa en un punto en el que, desde la emoción, nos permite entender situaciones cruciales de la vida para las que no hay sino las palabras más elementales: el odio, el mal, el amor, la posibilidad de que el mundo y la historia estén gobernados por el más absoluto sinsentido. Para afrontar la vida, cuando es difícil y en los momentos de esplendor, disponemos del arte. Sabiendo que es así, Roth no deja de escribir. Probablemente no podría hacerlo, aunque quisiera.

La mancha humana (2000) supuso la entrada de su obra en el siglo XXI. A partir de entonces, lejos de ralentizarse, su productividad se regularizó, con títulos como El animal moribundoLa conjura contra AméricaEverymanSale el espectro,IndignaciónHumillación. Aunque sus lectores parecían necesitarlo tanto como siempre, cabía preguntarse si el escritor había llegado al límite de sus posibilidades. ¿Se estaba repitiendo? Llegó octubre de 2010, volvió a sonar su nombre, como cada otoño, entre los candidatos al Nobel. Una vez más, no se le concedió. Lo que sí llegó con la puntualidad de siempre fue una nueva novela, Nemesis, y con ella la sorpresa. A Roth le queda mucho por decir.

El tema de Nemesis es la epidemia de polio que asoló Estados Unidos durante el verano de 1941, tal y como afectó a la comunidad judía de Newark, la ciudad natal del autor, escenario de su infancia, al que ha regresado repetidamente en su obra. EnNemesis, Roth retoma un viejo tema, el de la peste, tratado anteriormente por Daniel Defoe y Albert Camus. El trasfondo, en este caso, es la II Guerra Mundial, con sus atrocidades. En su última entrega, Roth nos arrastra a lo mejor de que es capaz el teatro de su imaginación, alcanzando un virtuosismo del que sólo son capaces los maestros de lo invisible. Al comentar la novela, el sudafricano J. M. Coetzee, ganador del premio Nobel de Literatura, repara en una escena misteriosa en la que se explica cómo cavar una tumba. Se trata de una lección, señala Coetzee, tanto de vida como de muerte. Escribir es afrontar la muerte y aprender a vivir. Todo a la vez.

Tomado de El País.

 

Nemesis, un fragmento de la nueva novela de Roth…

Les dejo aquí un fragmento de la nueva novela de Philip Roth.

También les recomiendo leer El teatro de Sabath, Pastoral Americano y Portnoy’s Complaint.

The first case of polio that summer came early in June, right after Memorial Day, in a poor Italian neighborhood crosstown from where we lived. Over in the city’s southwestern corner, in the Jewish Weequahic section, we heard nothing about it, nor did we hear anything about the next dozen cases scattered singly throughout Newark in nearly every neighborhood but ours. Only by the Fourth of July, when there were already forty cases reported in the city, did an article appear on the front page of the evening paper, titled «Health Chief Puts Parents on Polio Alert,» in which Dr. William Kittell, superintendent of the Board of Health, was quoted as cautioning parents to monitor their children closely and to contact a physician if a child exhibited symptoms such as headache, sore throat, nausea, stiff neck, joint pain, or fever. Though Dr. Kittell acknowledged that forty polio cases was more than twice as many as normally reported this early in the polio season, he wanted it clearly understood that the city of 429,000 was by no means suffering from what could be characterized as an epidemic of poliomyelitis. This summer as every summer, there was reason for concern and for the proper hygienic precautions to be taken, but there was as yet no cause for the sort of alarm that had been displayed by parents, «justifiably enough,» twenty-eight years earlier, during the largest outbreak of the disease ever reported — the 1916 polio epidemic in the northeastern United States, when there had been more than 27,000 cases, with 6,000 deaths. In Newark there had been 1,360 cases and 363 deaths.

Now even in a year with an average number of cases, when the chances of contracting polio were much reduced from what they’d been back in 1916, a paralytic disease that left a youngster permanently disabled and deformed or unable to breathe outside a cylindrical metal respirator tank known as an iron lung — or that could lead from paralysis of the respiratory muscles to death — caused the parents in our neighborhood considerable apprehension and marred the peace of mind of children who were free of school for the summer months and able to play outdoors all day and into the long twilit evenings. Concern for the dire consequences of falling seriously ill from polio was compounded by the fact that no medicine existed to treat the disease and no vaccine to produce immunity. Polio — or infantile paralysis, as it was called when the disease was thought to infect mainly toddlers — could befall anyone, for no apparent reason. Though children up to sixteen were usually the sufferers, adults too could become severely infected, as had the current president of the United States.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, polio’s most renowned victim, had contracted the disease as a vigorous man of thirty-nine and subsequently had to be supported when he walked and, even then, had to wear heavy steel-and-leather braces from his hips to his feet to enable him to stand. The charitable institution that FDR founded while he was in the White House, the March of Dimes, raised money for research and for financial assistance to the families of the stricken; though partial or even full recovery was possible, it was often only after months or years of expensive hospital therapy and rehabilitation. During the annual fund drive, America’s young donated their dimes at school to help in the fight against the disease, they dropped their dimes into collection cans passed around by ushers in movie theaters, and posters announcing «You Can Help, Too!» and «Help Fight Polio!» appeared on the walls of stores and offices and in the corridors of schools across the country, posters of children in wheelchairs — a pretty little girl wearing leg braces shyly sucking her thumb, a clean-cut little boy with leg braces heroically smiling with hope — posters that made the possibility of getting the disease seem all the more frighteningly real to otherwise healthy children.

Summers were steamy in low-lying Newark, and because the city was partially ringed by extensive wetlands — a major source of malaria back when that, too, was an unstoppable disease — there were swarms of mosquitoes to be swatted and slapped away whenever we sat on beach chairs in the alleys and driveways at night, seeking refuge out of doors from our sweltering flats, where there was nothing but a cold shower and ice water to mitigate the hellish heat. This was before the advent of home air conditioning, when a small black electric fan, set on a table to stir up a breeze indoors, offered little relief once the temperature reached the high nineties, as it did repeatedly that summer for stretches of a week or ten days. Outdoors, people lit citronella candles and sprayed with cans of the insecticide Flit to keep at bay the mosquitoes and flies that were known to have carried malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid fever and were believed by many, beginning with Newark’s Mayor Drummond, who launched a citywide «Swat the Fly» campaign, to carry polio. When a fly or a mosquito managed to penetrate the screens of a family’s flat or fly in through an open door, the insect would be doggedly hunted down with fly swatter and Flit out of fear that by alighting with its germ-laden legs on one of the household’s sleeping children it would infect the youngster with polio. Since nobody then knew the source of the contagion, it was possible to grow suspicious of almost anything, including the bony alley cats that invaded our backyard garbage cans and the haggard stray dogs that slinked hungrily around the houses and defecated all over the sidewalk and street and the pigeons that cooed in the gables of the houses and dirtied front stoops with their chalky droppings. In the first month of the outbreak — before it was acknowledged as an epidemic by the Board of Health — the sanitation department set about systematically to exterminate the city’s huge population of alley cats, even though no one knew whether they had any more to do with polio than domesticated house cats.

What people did know was that the disease was highly contagious and might be passed to the healthy by mere physical proximity to those already infected. For this reason, as the number of cases steadily mounted in the city — and communal fear with it — many children in our neighborhood found themselves prohibited by their parents from using the big public pool at Olympic Park in nearby Irvington, forbidden to go to the local «air-cooled» movie theaters, and forbidden to take the bus downtown or to travel Down Neck to Wilson Avenue to see our minor league team, the Newark Bears, play baseball at Ruppert Stadium. We were warned not to use public toilets or public drinking fountains or to swig a drink out of someone else’s soda-pop bottle or to get a chill or to play with strangers or to borrow books from the public library or to talk on a public pay phone or to buy food from a street vendor or to eat until we had cleaned our hands thoroughly with soap and water. We were to wash all fruit and vegetables before we ate them, and we were to keep our distance from anyone who looked sick or complained of any of polio’s telltale symptoms.

Escaping the city’s heat entirely and being sent off to a summer camp in the mountains or the countryside was considered a child’s best protection against catching polio. So too was spending the summer some sixty miles away at the Jersey Shore. A family who could afford it rented a bedroom with kitchen privileges in a rooming house in Bradley Beach, a strip of sand, boardwalk, and cottages a mile long that had already been popular for several decades among North Jersey Jews. There the mother and the children would go to the beach to breathe in the fresh, fortifying ocean air all week long and be joined on weekends and vacations by the father. Of course, cases of polio were known to crop up in summer camps as they did in the shore’s seaside towns, but because they were nothing like as numerous as those reported back in Newark, it was widely believed that, whereas city surroundings, with their unclean pavements and stagnant air, facilitated contagion, settling within sight or sound of the sea or off in the country or up in the mountains afforded as good a guarantee as there was of evading the disease.

So the privileged lucky ones disappeared from the city for the summer while the rest of us remained behind to do exactly what we shouldn’t, given that «overexertion» was suspected of being yet another possible cause of polio: we played inning after inning and game after game of softball on the baking asphalt of the school playground, running around all day in the extreme heat, drinking thirstily from the forbidden water fountain, between innings seated on a bench crushed up against one another, clutching in our laps the well-worn, grimy mitts we used out in the field to mop the sweat off our foreheads and to keep it from running into our eyes — clowning and carrying on in our soaking polo shirts and our smelly sneakers, unmindful of how our imprudence might be dooming any one of us to lifelong incarceration in an iron lung and the realization of the body’s most dreadful fears.

Excerpted from Nemesis by Philip Roth. Copyright 2010 by Philip Roth. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. All rights reserved.


Roth Vs. el grafómano…

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Counterfeit Roth

by Judith Thurman April 5, 2010

Last month, Paola Zanuttini, a journalist from La Repubblica, the progressive Roman newspaper, interviewed Philip Roth about his latest novel, “The Humbling,” which has recently been published in Italian. “We had a lively and intelligent conversation about my fiction,” Roth said. The Q. & A. ran on February 26th, as the cover story of Il VenerdìLa Repubblicas Friday magazine—with a fierce-looking closeup portrait of Roth, and the title “Sex and Me.” Zanuttini focussed on the relationships of Roth’s aging protagonists with their much younger inamoratas, the feminist response to them, and his own marriages and romances. “Your descriptions of sex are ruthless,” she asserted. “Ruthless?” he countered. She backed down a little: “They describe things as they are, raw and naked.” “I am pleased by the notion that I can still be scandalous,” he said. “I thought I had lost that magic.”

The real scandal revealed by the interview, however, came at the end, when Zanuttini asked Roth why he was so “disappointed” with Barack Obama. She translated, aloud, remarks attributed to him in an article by a freelance journalist, Tommaso Debenedetti, that was published last November in Libero, a tabloid notably sympathetic to Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy (who is embroiled in his own sex scandals with much younger women). “It appears that you find him nasty, vacillating, and mired in the mechanics of power,” Zanuttini said. “But I have never said anything of the kind!” Roth objected. “It is completely contrary to what I think. Obama, in my opinion, is fantastic.” He had never heard of Debenedetti, or of Libero. The interview, with its bitter judgment of Obama’s banality, failure, and empty rhetoric about hope and change, was a complete fabrication.

The Italian blogosphere quickly and gleefully picked up the story. Liberos editor grudgingly expressed embarrassment, and its Web site took down the interview. Debenedetti turned off his cell phone and dropped out of sight. (The only Facebook page bearing the writer’s name shows a bearded, curly-haired young hipster with a goofy expression.) Roth, however, was curious about him. “I went online to do some research,” he said. He discovered that Debenedetti had claimed to possess recordings of their “telephone conversation,” but, Roth said, “he couldn’t find the tapes.” An op-ed piece in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s newspaper of record, had praised the frankness of Roth’s critique of Obama, contrasting it to the pusillanimity of Italians in calling their own leader to account. “But what I was really looking for,” Roth continued, “were other interviews by Debenedetti, and I found one, with John Grisham, that was published in three newspapers”—Il Resto del Carlino and La Nazione, both conservative, and Il Giorno, which is centrist. “They contained the same sort of denunciations, which sounded implausible to me.” (“Last year’s enthusiasm is remote now,” Grisham allegedly told Debenedetti. “People are angry with Obama for having done little or nothing and having promised too much.”)

Roth asked his agent, Andrew Wylie, to contact Grisham’s agent, David Gernert, and, sure enough, the Grisham “interview” proved to be another hoax. Like Roth, Grisham took the trouble to double-check his press contacts, and found no record of Debenedetti. “I was more shocked than angered,” he wrote in an e-mail. Having read the text in translation, it wasn’t, he thought, “a bad piece of fiction.” As for Obama, both Grisham and his wife, Renée (a Hillary Clinton superdelegate), were, after the nomination, “on board, and still are.”

“You have to wonder what the guy was thinking,” Roth concluded. “The best explanation I can find is that this obscure freelancer had hit upon a way of selling articles by attributing anti-Obama sentiments to famous American writers. It was a good gimmick, and he probably had fun. But I can’t imagine what he’ll do now—surely his career is over.”

Tomado de The New Yorker

Para leer más sobre este artículo ir a este enlace…

Pueden leer también la versión en espñol de El País, aunque la traducción no es muy buena… para leer el artículo ir a este enlace…

Arriba imágenes de Roth y el borrador de una de sus novelas.