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Luke Edwards
Luke Edwards

Philip Roth Nemesis Pdf 11 |WORK|

Nemesis is not openly named by Sophocles, for which he doubtless had his reasons. Nevertheless, nemesis pervades Greek tragedy as a feared force presiding over human affairs, a force that redistributes fortune downward toward the middle or middling, and is in that sense mean, mean-minded: unkind, ungenerous, unrelenting. At one time all of Thebes envied Oedipus, says the chorus at the end of the play, yet look at him now! Greek tradition is full of cautionary tales of mortals who provoke the envy (nemesis) of the gods by being too beautiful or too happy or too fortunate, and are then made to suffer for it. The chorus, as an embodiment of received Theban opinion, is all too ready to package the story of Oedipus along these lines.

Philip Roth Nemesis Pdf 11


These are a few of the questions Philip Roth's latest novel considers, turning them round like meat on a spit. With respect to his own past as an author, there are many questions - the hedges, qualifications, objections entertained by critics - to which it gives a resounding answer. ''The Counterlife,'' it seems to me, constitutes a fulfillment of tendencies, a successful integration of themes, and the final working through of obsessions that have previously troubled if not marred his work. I hope it felt, as Mr. Roth wrote it, like a triumph, because that is certainly how it reads to me. THE style is a triumph too. It is no longer a style at war with itself, as Mr. Roth's sometimes used to be, its cleverness undercutting its own emotions, its satire thinning a subject already sliced. Its combativeness is no longer pointed at the reader, the critic, the family or some other ancient adversary. The world of ''The Counterlife'' is made of intelligent, argumentative, witty, observant words. They are words woven now, after the practice of many years, into a rich, muscular, culturally complex style that even in purely narrative moments seems to come not from the end of a pen but through the flow of the voice, thus from a mouth - the organ that Zuckerman's brother, a dentist, seductively describes, for the young assistant he is about to hire, as genital. It is surely the opening through which, to continue life, the world is received. It is also, quite as surely, the loudspeaker of the soul. And in ''The Counterlife'' a lot of those loudspeakers are on. Full blast.

The book begins with the brother's death. Henry, the dentist, has heart trouble. The medicine he is taking for it makes him impotent. Unable to sport with his hygienist any longer, Henry grows desperate and undergoes a bypass operation that will remove him from his medicine, restore his manhood and incidentally repair his heart. His wife chooses to believe it is for her he has run this risk. But soon Mr. Roth will skillfully split the narrative. Henry will unaccountably recover from his death at the hands of the text, and with his revived heart will hasten abruptly away to Israel to take up righteousness and seek the faith. There he will carry a pistol and develop a different, more martial, manhood. It is not heaven he has gone to but Judea. It is not the West Bank he has gone to, but War.

We learn that Nathan Zuckerman, Henry's nemesis, has refused to speak at his brother's funeral. For reasons, of course. Well, wait. Henry will get his opportunity to refuse to speak at Nathan's. These are counterlives but suspiciously parallel tales: woman against woman, marriage against marriage, both or neither brother surviving the knife, as the novel continues its surprises. For Nathan's story could be said to commence with his death, too, at a later date in the text, though from similar causes and resembling motives. Nathan has the same punning problem - a troubled heart -with its emasculating consequences, which means he cannot marry the sweet young object of his present affections and beget the child he finally thinks he wants. So he too will seek a remedy beneath the surgeon's knife and receive his quietus for it.

Every belief is buttressed, not with reasons, but with the crimes of opponents. The gentiles have done thus and so; the Arabs, also, have done thus and so; therefore we, the Jews, should do thus, and thus, and thus and so. Action follows action like an avalanche of rock. Of course resentment stretches as far as one can see sand. And every Jew, except for the secular, corrupt, pluralistic and skeptically minded Nathan, believes it essential that every Jew believe the same as every other Jew, achieve the solidarity of the Wailing Wall. The speeches which give air to these opinions are intensely interesting, passionately convincing and perfectly phrased. Although each view is by its fevered nature a partial one, such is Mr. Roth's skill that the accumulation of these partials makes for an impressive whole. UNARGUED lives may also be worth living, but you won't find them in this book. The two brothers continue to counter each other, appear to oppose each other, as the geography of the novel does, locating some of its scenes in America, others in England's green and pleasant land as well as in the deserts of Judea. Nathan's new love lives in London, and this permits Mr. Roth to parallel the book's vivid earlier scenes at the Wailing Wall with Christmas caroling in a cathedral. He lays the complacent, stupid, almost serene anti-Semitism Nathan confronts in Gloucestershire alongside the louder, less secure dislike for the goyim he finds in Israel. And finds in his brother. And finds in himself, for he is, of course, his brother - at least by now. He has accepted his brother -American middle-class dentist one moment, Israeli militant another - in order to continue to live. Live what? A fictive life?

Each often painful encounter with these examples of Jewish love and Jewish hate has cleansed Nathan Zuckerman, who has sought the solution to his nature through book after book, of one more trapping of his type, until he finally sees himself as ''a Jew without Jews, without Judaism, without Zionism, without Jewishness, without a temple or an army or even a pistol, a Jew clearly without a home, just the object itself, like a glass or an apple.'' Except for the phallic scar, the venereal voodoo he desires to have performed upon his son - a futile mark of difference, it would seem to me, since circumcision is now more fashionable among the gentiles than pierced ears. A LITTLE past its middle, in a brilliant postmodern maneuver, the book becomes posthumous, and begins reading itself both front and rear, before and after, like a swing. With Nathan dead of Henry's heart, Henry seizes and censors the manuscript of his brother's latest book. It is a draft of ''The Counterlife.'' Our surprise at these developments, and a number of others, is honestly accounted for by the structure of the book and brilliantly brought off each time. I think the novel's daring shape will continue to possess its fascination for us upon a second look, a third reread, just the way the turns in Haydn's ''Surprise'' symphony still delight us. 350c69d7ab


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