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The Human Stain: American Trilogy (3) (Vintage International) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 8. Mai 2001

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Athena College was snoozing complacently in the Berkshires until Coleman Silk strode in and shook the place awake. This faculty dean sacked the deadwood, made lots of hot new hires, including Yale-spawned literary-theory wunderkind Delphine Roux, and pissed off so many people for so many decades that now, in 1998, they've all turned on him. Silk's character assassination is partly owing to what the novel's narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, calls "the Devil of the Little Place--the gossip, the jealousy, the acrimony, the boredom, the lies". But shocking, intensely dramatised events precipitate Silk's crisis. He remarks of two students who never showed up for class, "Do they exist or are they spooks?" They turn out to be black, and lodge a bogus charge of racism exploited by his enemies. Then, at 71, Viagra catapults Silk into "the perpetual state of emergency that is sexual intoxication", and he ignites an affair with an illiterate janitor, Faunia Farley, 34. She's got a sharp sensibility, "the laugh of a barmaid who keeps a baseball bat at her feet in case of trouble," and a melancholy voluptuousness. "I'm back in the tornado," Silk exults. His campus persecutors burn him for it--and his main betrayer is Delphine Roux.

The flashbacks to Silk's youth in New Jersey become just as important as his turbulent-forced retirement when he reveals a secret that he has been hiding his entire adult life and Silk's contradictions power a great Philip Roth novel, but he's not the only character who packs a punch. Faunia, brutally abused by her Vietnam vet husband, scarred by the death of her kids, is one of Roth's best female characters ever. The self-serving Delphine Roux is intriguingly (and convincingly) nutty, and any number of minor characters pop in, mouth off and vanish, leaving a vivid sense of human passion and perversity behind. You might call it a stain. --Tim Appelo -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.


?Perhaps the best writing of [Roth?s] long career?. [The Human Stain] is a modern tragedy.??Chicago Sun-Times

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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Philip Roth's Human Stain shocked me, not with its subject-matter, which I think is by now well known, but by its often amateurish construction. If I didn't know the author's name, I would think I was reading a first novel, one that showed promise but whose author clearly needed time to grow. The characters in this book feel more like ideas than humans. We are told by the author, or rather the narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, what they are like rather than being shown. They carry none of the intense aura of flesh and blood that such recent Roth creations as Merry Levov and Mickey Sabbath did. His main villains are, in fact, nearly ludicrous caricatures: an angry Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD, and an angry, lonely, 29-year-old female professor of French. While the plot is quite interesting, I never felt any kinship with any of the actors in the drama, and thus found it a struggle to continue reading at times. Roth, of course, can still weave together lyrical, beautful paragraphs, but in this particular case I often found myself wondering to what end. This is surprising to me, particularly as I count Roth among my favorite authors, and consider his work of the nineties to be by and large brilliant. I particularly loved American Pastoral, Operation Shylock, and Patrimony, and also had a warm spot for Sabbath's Theater. I Married A Communist seemed a drop-off to me, but nowhere nearly as distressing as that of the Human Stain. Here's hoping a better novel comes out in 2001.
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The Human Stain is not the best of recent Roth (but then there are few contemporary novels from whatever country as impressive as Sabbath's Theater or American Pastoral). However, it is confirmation that Roth is one of the most necessary of contemporary writers.
This concludes a trilogy of loosely related novels taking a personal examination of important events from post WWII American history. Each is narrated by Nathan Zuckerman (Roth's altar ego), and again Zuckerman is present, but - generally - not intrusive.
Set against the backdrop of the Lewinsky affair, Coleman's own fall from his position as Professor of Classics and dean of a department for a "racist" remark is a tragedy, and filled with anger, on behalf of his friend, Zuckerman traces Silk's life, and his final days (including an affair with a cleaner at the University).
Roth's writing has a passion. His prose may not be smooth and elegant, but there is real emotion underpinning it. Anger at the nature of modern society, the dumbing down, the compartmentalising of people.
Roth's characters are more rounded than in the first Zuckerman trilogy. His subjects now seem real. His writing about a writer, and his problems writing seems to be behind him.
This is a book about learning, about ignorance, about dignity, about shame.
It can be contrasted with the cool prose of JM Coetzee's Disgrace, winner of the Booker Prize in the UK. This novel looks at the fall of an academic after an affair with a student. It is a well written but cold novel. No-one can accuse Roth/Zuckerman of writing cold fiction.
The novel is uneven, but there is much that is poetic in the midst of the righteous anger.
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The Human Stain is better than 98% of the dreck that gets published these days, but since I believe that Roth is the greatest American writer, ever, this book gets judged against his other works -- thus only four stars. Roth seems to have begun with a notebook of thoughts and observations, turned them into brilliant prose, and then constructed a plot and characterizations around that prose. The result is a dozen or so interesting but thinly developed characters, including even Coleman Silk, the main protagonist. After all, 360 pages is hardly enough to develop this many characters.
The book also purports to be a commentary on the issues of race and political correctness in the late 90s. God knows we don't need another OJ book, but how can you comment on race in the 90s without mentioning OJ? Further, the book is set with the Clinton/Lewinsky matter in the background, but apart from four or five pages of an overheard dialogue and a few other observations sprinkled here and there (including the dead-on observation that Monica and her generation are so proud of their shallowness), the books leaves it alone.
Although Zuckerman isn't the lout that Rabbit Angstrom was, I would have appreciated Rabbit's take on the state of the union in 2000. I was hoping that Zuckerman could have filled the void left by Rabbit's death, but it was not to be.
Read this book anyway!
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The sheer brilliance of Roth's prose is a pleasure in itself. It rolls lightly and naturally. There is nothing forced and viscous about the flow and none of the I'm-consciously-trying-to-(over)describe-things-as-a-writer syndrome. The disgraced former college dean Coleman Silk is the protagonist of the novel. He is an incognito escapee from his original African American background and its defining forces. He has been living for decades as his own creation, a white Jew of Russian origin, and has had a highly successful academic career. In achieving his goals he has been single-minded to the point of unscrupulousness. His wife and children are unaware of his true identity. His career has ended in ignominy following false accusations of racism. Only Silk can appreciate the cruel irony of this. His wife dies of a stroke due to resulting stress. He starts an affair with a poor (apparently) illiterate woman half his age and begins a life alienated from his hitherto self-made one. Silk had steamrollered numerous colleagues in order to achieve what he wanted as a dean of faculty and so they jump on the bandwagon when the opportunity presents itself to avenge themselves on him. The newly-established virtues of the age are reduced to instruments of politicking in the process. His new relationship becomes the focus of yet another inquisition. Roth lashes out at the falseness of the new conventions and political correctness. Everything ends as an ironic tragedy. The theme seems to be the ultimate futility of striving for the real thing. There is a multitude of characters and some remain somewhat underdeveloped. Maybe this itself is part of the message i.e. a person's knowledge of himself/herself and others is destined to be incomplete and superficial and can be based only on the 'evidence' presented. Les Farley, for example, is like something cobbled together in a DIY store. Overall though the book is highly recommendable.
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