Dasein, Red Elephant.

American Jewry, Philip Roth


redelephant: Just noticed a rather interesting review in Azure of Philip Roth’s 2005 novel, The Plot Against America. Samuel G.Freeman, a lecturer at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism examines Roth’s fictional alternate universe, where Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR in the 1940 presidential election and begins a nation-wide campaign of anti-semiticism. Freedman writes:

Some critics attribute the book’s impact to a concern among Americans, and especially Jews, about the emergence of jihadist terrorism around the world. Others contend that the book serves as a deft and devastating parable of the America led by George W. Bush, who in their view is simultaneously an intolerant boob and a cunning, nascent dictator.While these two arguments have merit, I nonetheless think both miss the essential point. Whether by intent or accident, Roth’s novel speaks to a fundamental part of the American Jewish psyche: Insecurity.

What Roth has actually accomplished--and it is an immense literary achievement, indeed--is to make palpable for American readers the paralysis, anxiety, helplessness, betrayal, and fleeting, ill-fated resistance of European Jewry, particularly German Jewry, during the 1930s and 1940s. By setting all the events in a familiar American context, while holding fast to eternal truths of human nature and Jewish character, Roth has given us, all these decades later and a continent away, an acute answer to the terrible lingering questions of the Holocaust. Why didn’t more Jews flee? Why didn’t more Jews fight? Why didn’t they see the doom descending until it was too late?

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