In Memoriam Philip Roth

In Memoriam Philip Roth

De Amerikaanse schrijver Philip Roth is op 85-jarige leeftijd overleden. Philip Roth werd geboren op 19 maart 1933 in Newark.en gold als een van de grootste Amerikaanse schrijvers en won talrijke literaire prijzen, waaronder een Pulitzer in 1998. Zie ook alle tags voor Philip Roth op dit blog.

Uit: American Pastoral

“But wit or irony is like a hitch in his swing for a kid like the Swede, irony being a human consolation and beside the point if you’re getting your way as a god. Either there was a whole side to his personality that he was suppressing or that was as yet asleep or, more likely, there wasn’t. His aloofness, his seeming passivity as the desired object of all this asexual lovemaking, made him appear, if not divine, a distinguished cut above the more primordial humanity of just about everybody else at the school. He was fettered to history, an instrument of history, esteemed with a passion that might never have been if he’d broken the Weequahic basketball record – by scoring twenty-seven points against Barringer – on a day other than the sad, sad day in 1943 when fifty-eight Flying Fortresses were shot down by Luftwaffe fighter planes, two fell victim to flak, and five more crashed after crossing the English coast on their way back from bombing Germany.
The Swede’s younger brother was my classmate, Jerry Levov, a scrawny, small-headed, oddly overflexible boy built along the lines of a licorice stick, something of a mathematical wizard, and the January 1950 valedictorian. Though Jerry never really had a friendship with anyone, in his imperious, irascible way, he took an interest in me over the years, and that was how I wound up, from the age of ten, regularly getting beaten by him at Ping-Pong in the finished basement of the Levovs’ one-family house, on the corner of Wyndmoor and Keer – the word “finished” indicating that it was paneled in knotty pine, domesticated, and not, as Jerry seemed to think, that the basement was the perfect place for finishing off another kid.
The explosiveness of Jerry’s aggression at a Ping-Pong table exceeded his brother’s in any sport. A Ping-Pong ball is, brilliantly, sized and shaped so that it cannot take out your eye. I would not otherwise have played in Jerry Levov’s basement. If it weren’t for the opportunity to tell people that I knew my way around Swede Levov’s house, nobody could have got me down into that basement, defenseless but for a small wooden paddle. Nothing that weighs as little as a Ping-Pong ball can be lethal, yet when Jerry whacked that thing murder couldn’t have been far from his mind. It never occurred to me that this violent display might have something to do with what it was like for him to be the kid brother of Swede Levov. Since I couldn’t imagine anything better than being the Swede’s brother – short of being the Swede himself – I failed to understand that for Jerry it might be difficult to imagine anything worse.
The Swede’s bedroom – which I never dared enter but would pause to gaze into when I used the toilet outside Jerry’s room – was tucked under the eaves at the back of the house. With its slanted ceiling and dormer windows and Weequahic pennants on the walls, it looked like what I thought of as a real boy’s room. From the two windows that opened out over the back lawn you could see the roof of the Levovs’ garage, where the Swede as a grade school kid practiced hitting in the wintertime by swinging at a baseball taped to a cord hung from a rafter – an idea he might have got from a baseball novel by John R. Tunis called The Kid from Tomkinsville. I came to that book and to other of Tunis’s baseball books – Iron Duke, The Duke Decides, Champion’s Choice, Keystone Kids, Rookie of the Year – by spotting them on the built-in shelf beside the Swede’s bed, all lined up alphabetically between two solid bronze bookends that had been a bar mitzvah gift, miniaturized replicas of Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

 
Philip Roth (19 maart 1933 – 22 mei 2018)

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