Steve Sampson Publishes Review of la Bibliothèque de la Pléiade Second Roth Volume

Society member Steven Sampson recently published a review of the second volume of Roth's collected work. The article--which you can access here ( https://www.en-attendant-nadeau.fr/2022/03/16/philip-roth-speculaire/ ), is in French, but Steven has kindly written a note that summarizes his review.


From Steven Sampson:


Dear Fellow Members of the Philip Roth Society,

Last month la Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (the French equivalent of the Library of America) came out with Volume 2 of Roth's works, covering 1979-1991.


When Volume 1 was published in 2017, Roth became the second living foreigner to be included in this series.


Here is my article on Volume 2, recently published on the front page of En attendant Nadeau, a sort of French on-line equivalent of The New York Review of Books:


https://www.en-attendant-nadeau.fr/2022/03/16/philip-roth-speculaire/

A few noteworthy points from my article:


I dispute the editors’ insistence (expressed in mini-essays within the Pléiade volume) that the « masks » worn by Philip Roth — Zuckerman or « Philip » —, i.e. the manner in which he supposedly disguises his identity, should be considered as the central feature of this period.

I suggest instead that one focus on the inclusion of the reader within the plot: « reception » becomes the story.

Citing my novel, Moi, Philip Roth (2018), whose hero considers his life to be a commentary on The Anatomy Lesson, I liken the Zuckerman trilogy/Portnoy relationship to that between the Talmud and the Torah, as well as to that between the New and Old Testaments: a new canon arises as an interpretation of the previous one. This relationship is sometimes expressed as an incarnation of the Word. Which helps explain the tension, explicitly stated in the trilogy, between flesh and prose, encapsulated in the word « corpus » in Roth’s pun at the end of The Anatomy Lesson.

Relying on Barthes (« the death of the author »), I criticise the editors’ fealty to Roth’s own explanations of his work.

And finally, I cite their failure to mention The Anatomy Lesson by Danilo Kis (1978), published while Roth was editor of The Writers from the Other Europe Series. Both Kis’ novel and that by Roth, published five years later, place a literary dispute at the center of the plot.

Best regards,

Steven

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