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American Pastoral (1997)

af Philip Roth

Andre forfattere: Se andre forfattere sektionen.

Serier: The American Trilogy (1)

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Smuk og velbjerget er den jødisk-amerikanske Seymour lige efter krigen godt på vej til at opfylde den amerikanske drøm. Men hans typiske og naive optimisme får sprækker under Vietnamkrigen og ender fuldstændig, da hans datter bliver revolutionær terrorist.

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Roth hasn't changed all that much since the 60's when he "bursted onto the scene" in Portnoy's Complain. Ossified within his conventions, the same critique of this "American Trilogy" rings true: "The real achievement here is the sleek embodiment of the modern reactionary (and curiously Freudian) notion that all so-called 'do gooders' are motivated, at least in part, by psychosis." Here the Freudian is a "Pivotal" kiss between a father and his young, stuttering girl-child. From this, perhaps, we can account for her later "psychosis", although the precise etiology of her so-called "hysterical craziness" is always a bit out of grasp.

One moment on the framing device, perhaps the most enjoyable part of this novel (because it doesn't promise anything) - but functions more like rain on a used car lot - buffing out scratches we would otherwise notice, since after all, this is an Unreliable Narrator. Remember, the Author is a little more clever than you think he is. When you compare the imagined Swede to the author Zimmerman - even this device is Roth's construction. Probably the preamble is also necessary to add to "mystique" to the Swede character, who otherwise is an "everyman" of no particular import.

The detail on glovemaking is good. Roth has done his research, though perhaps hasn't balanced it quite right. Would have preferred him to go even further, the clumsy metaphor notwithstanding. (And see it's a metaphor for something covering something else and also a yonic image, and see the outsourced industry a metaphor for 'loss-of-american-innocence' and see women don't wear gloves anymore because no one knows how to be a proper lady as we would have it and so on.) He also gets about half-way there regarding the details of beauty competitions and the psychology of beauty contestants, so that you think he knows something about it. But he doesn't go nearly far enough on this subject, as if at some point he ran out of time or source material or was put off by it.

I don't know if teens really speak like this to their parents. If they don't then Roth's conversations between Swede and his daughter are just his way of "owning the libs" in a bit of a contrived fashion (I wouldn't put it past him tbh). If they do, then why bother mentioning it and using it as the most concrete evidence that she is "hysterical" and "crazy". As played-out as this narrative is, Roth seems to want to portray Swede as a "weak, tolerant lib" (my paraphrase) who won't "lay down the law" in his own house because he's a "nice guy" (as opposed to his brother who "Takes-What-He-Wants-When-He-Wants-It", see it's two sides of the American coin do you get it). Even so, the puerile conversations between Swede and the Militant Left appear to take the phonemes of so-called "Left Thought" and leave them as un-reflected "Egoistic Pathology" and "Inane thought" (his words). There is no discussion to be had, and in the 400 pages none occurs. Swede never gets beyond his initial (reactionary) reaction of, "How dare you insult me. I haven't done anything. This is crazy. You are crazy," (my paraphrase).
"You are an exploiter capitalist,"
"You have no idea about work you have never worked in your life,"
"The unreality of being in the hands of this child! This loathsome kid with a head full of fantasies about "the working class"! This utterly insignificant pebble! What was the whole sick enterprise other than angry, infantile egoism thinly disguised as identification with the oppressed? Her weighty responsibility to the workers of the world! Egoistic pathology bristled out of her like the hair that nuttily proclaimed, "I go wherever I want, as far as I want—all that matters is what I want!" Yes, the nonsensical hair constituted half of their revolutionary ideology, about as sound a justification for her actions as the other half—the exaggerated jargon about changing the world. "
"No one begins like this, the Swede thought. This can't be what she is. This bullying infant, this obnoxious, stubborn, angry bullying infant cannot be my daughter's protector. She is her jailer. Merry with all her intelligence under the spell of this childlike cruelty and meanness. There's more human sense in one page of the stuttering diary than in all the sadistic idealism in this reckless child's head. [...] How does a child get to be like this? Can anyone be utterly without thoughtfulness? The answer is yes."

All this the more disappointing because it steps around an interesting discussion at the crux of the novel's "fateful explosion" which Roth never addresses. Really, what is a Modern American's responsibility at home and abroad. Are these demands congruent with Americans' self-conception (this alone would be the downfall of the so-called "American Pastoral"). Are all American actions abroad permissible or are some not, and what strategy/tactics are permissible to oppose these impermissible actions and so on. Swede himself, during his military service, was explicitly eager to fire a heavy gun on an atoll in the Pacific, so one imagines Roth intended there to be a contrast between Swede's own (patriotic) teenage militarism and his daughter's, yet no discussion is to be had. Instead, the "dialectic" that occurs is between Swede's denial of his daughter's responsibility (see above, "my daughter's protector [...] her jailer") and his acceptance that she is responsible for these actions, which is only significant because it reflects her guilt upon him despite a lack of "Guilt-action" on his part. In searching for a "Guilt without Action" dynamic Roth was unfortunate to have written this before the era of Modern American school shootings. Swede as the parent of a school shooter would be more appropriate and would be doubly serviceable because Roth would not be conspicuously avoiding the discussion above.

Roth's refusal to have a discussion regarding the questions at center of this novel leads to a series of choices (or perhaps the other way around). Roth relies on the visceral reaction against the bombing to carry over to another series of things which have a more tenuous connection to that violence. Of all forms of self-mortification, asceticism may be the most neutral, yet we are supposed to be horrified and disgusted to find Swede's daughter has converted to Jainism. If that doesn't get the emotions flowing, he adds that she is covered in filth and feces, "smells like shit", and in a moment of nearly pure Bathos has Swede literally vomit into her face. And this is somehow thought to be related to her political terrorism (which itself is, of course, directly related to her personal psychosis)
"The five "vows" she'd taken were typewritten on index cards and taped to the wall above a narrow pallet of dirty foam rubber on the unswept floor. That was where she slept, and given that there was nothing but the pallet in one corner of the room and a rag pile—her clothing—in the other, that must be where she sat to eat whatever it was she survived on. From the look of her she [was] near starvation not as a devout purified by her ascetic practices but as the despised of the lowest caste, miserably moving about on an untouchable's emaciated limbs."
"Fantasy and magic. Always pretending to be somebody else. What began benignly enough when she was playing at Audrey Hepburn had evolved in only a decade into this outlandish myth of selflessness. First the selfless nonsense of the People, now the selfless nonsense of the Perfected Soul. [...] Always a grandiose unreality, the remotest abstraction around—never self-seeking, not in a million years. The lying, inhuman horror of all this selflessness."

Abstract painting too.
"It never occurred to the Swede, reading the flier, that enough could not be claimed for the paintings just because they were so hollow, that you had to say they were pictures of everything because they were pictures of nothing—that all those words were merely another way of saying Orcutt was talentless and, however earnestly he might try, could never hammer out for himself an artistic prerogative or, for that matter, any but the prerogative whose rigid definitions had swaddled him at birth. It did not occur to the Swede that he was right, that this guy who seemed so at one with himself might be inadvertently divulging that to be out of tune was. Sad."

I can only touch briefly on Roth's antipathy toward women, particularly "women intellectuals" (this would require a thesis to unpack, and another one on the racism) which appears mostly unchanged since his work in the 60's. Here Swede despises the "posturing" Professor wife of his friend the Columbia Law Professor, who looks "dumpy" and is "insufferable". Swede is supposedly very even-handed when he describes her as a "difficult person" and "unpleasant", far more pleasant than other descriptions of her. In a comment to Swede by Mr. Orcutt by Zimmerman by Roth:
"Leave it to our visiting intellectual to get everything wrong. The complacent rudeness with which she plays the old French game of beating up on the bourgeoisie...." Orcutt was confiding to the Swede his amusement with Marcia's posturing. "It's to her credit, I suppose, that she doesn't defer to the regulation dinnerparty discipline of not saying anything about anything. But still it's amazing, constantly amazes me, how emptiness always goes with cleverness. She hasn't the faintest idea, really, of what she's talking about. Know what my father used to say? 'All brains and no intelligence. The smarter the stupider.' Applies."

Everything in this third part is contingent. Roth appears to just be adding infidelities between main characters into the Third Act because he *really* wants to get his Point across (I find the idea that both partners in Swede's marriage are having sex with other people very dubious, particularly for the Swede character). The dinner party where everyone is cheating on each other and the daughter's collaborator is there and the father of Swede and the father's wife who doesn't exist, it all seems to be a way of quickly wrapping up a novel that is already too long. And we never meet anyone in Dawn's family, what's up with that? Roth gets progressively more direct as the novel progresses and comes to stating and re-stating the Theme in paragraph after paragraph, eventually reaching this trite summary summation:
"She was nothing like the one he had imagined. And that was not because she had been passing herself off with him as something else or somebody else but because he had understood her no better than he was able to understand anyone. How to penetrate to the interior of people was some skill or capacity he did not possess. He just did not have the combination to that lock. Everybody who flashed the signs of goodness he took to be good. Everybody who flashed the signs of loyalty he took to be loyal. Everybody who flashed the signs of intelligence he took to be intelligent. And so he had failed to see into his daughter, failed to see into his wife, failed to see into his one and only mistress—probably had never even begun to see into himself. What was he, stripped of all the signs he flashed? People were standing up everywhere, shouting "This is me! This is me!" Every time you looked at them they stood up and told you who they were, and the truth of it was that they had no more idea of who or what they were than he had. They believed their flashing signs too. They ought to be standing up and shouting, "This isn't me! This isn't me!" They would if they had any decency. "This isn't me!" Then you might know how to proceed through the flashing bullshit of this world."
"And then this large, unimpeded social critic in a caftan could not help herself. Marcia sank into Jessie's empty chair, in front of the brimming glass of milk, and with her face in her hands, she began to laugh at their obtuseness to the flimsiness of the whole contraption, to laugh and laugh and laugh at them all, pillars of a society that, much to her delight, was going rapidly under—to laugh and to relish, as some people, historically, always seem to do, how far the rampant disorder had spread, enjoying enormously the assailability, the frailty, the enfeeblement of supposedly robust things."
( )
  Joe.Olipo | Sep 19, 2023 |
On the opposite end of the spectrum from In Cahoots is this Pulitzer Prize-winning book. While I did not finish reading this title (yet), I found that I liked the smooth and subtle prose and the rich character landscape created by the author. I understand why it won. Why didn't I finish it then and why didn't I give it more stars? Because it got pushed aside for some different reading I needed to do during NaNoWriMo and it became due at the library. Because I didn't finish it, I can't say that I recommend it yet, either. I may come back and try it again, mainly because I want to work my way through several Pulitzer books to see what make them tick. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
This book is staggering ... great. I don't know how Roth did this. He has created several superb characters, and he fleshed them out and told their stories - and what stories they are. I'll remember "the Swede" for a long time, and the narrator who grew in understanding of how much he did not understand, perceive, grasp. ( )
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
Da qualche tempo rifletto sul passo 6,29 dal vangelo di Luca e trovo davvero triviale l'interpretazione più diffusa: ama il tuo nemico.
L'interpretazione che emerge dalla lettura del romanzo di Roth e che l'autore dell'articolo evidenzia ruota invece attorno alla propria identità e a ciò che portiamo dentro di offensivo per noi e per l'altro. L'offesa che riteniamo di ricevere dall'altro cos'è? Qualcosa di totalmente imprevedibile, irrazionale, legato al marcio dell'altro? O è qualcosa che nasce in noi e che in noi trova alimento?

  claudio.marchisio | Jul 17, 2023 |
Seymour 'Swede' Levov is the American ideal- he is Jewish, tall, blonde and handsome. A star athlete, a war hero and thanks to his father’s glove manufacturing business, very wealthy. He also marries a former beauty queen. The facade starts to crack when their teenage daughter, Merry, begins to rebel and she gets involved in political terrorism, which leads to committing a horrendous attack.
I think this novel reflects America perfectly- all the starry ideals, along with all the ugliness, bubbling just under the surface. The writing is absolutely stellar, equal to it’s ambitious scope. I am not an authority on Roth but I would have to say that he is at the top of his game here. Brilliant book. ( )
  msf59 | Jun 25, 2023 |
Viser 1-5 af 176 (næste | vis alle)
Bewundernswert ist die Detailversessenheit und die akribische Genauigkeit, mit der Roth sein Pastiche malt. Sie macht die Besessenheit des Erzählers, mit der er die faszinierende Gestalt des Schweden umkreist, eindrucksvoll und wahrhaftig. Eine Frage aber bleibt: Wieviel amerikanische Idyllenmalerei, auch wenn sie im Dienste der Demontage eben dieser Idylle steht, erträgt der nicht-amerikanische Leser? Stellenweise geht Roth zu weit - er geht zu sehr ins Detail. Wenn er sowohl Vater als auch Sohn Levov in ihrer Begeisterung für das Handschuhgewerbe beschreibt, läßt er auch uns bis in die unbedeutendsten Einzelheiten an diesem Gewerbe, seiner Geschichte und seinen Fachbegriffen teilhaben. Und von welchem anderen Roman kann man schon lernen, was ein "Schichtel" ist?

» Tilføj andre forfattere (5 mulige)

Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Roth, Philipprimær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Drazdauskienė, RasaOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Drev, MiriamOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Fibla, JordiOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Figueiredo, RubensOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Formo, ToneOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Kamoun, JoséeTraductionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Mantovani, VincenzoOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Nilsson, Hans-JacobOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Pellar, RudolfOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Pellarová, LubaOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Schmitz, WernerÜbersetzermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Silver, RonFortællermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Smuk og velbjerget er den jødisk-amerikanske Seymour lige efter krigen godt på vej til at opfylde den amerikanske drøm. Men hans typiske og naive optimisme får sprækker under Vietnamkrigen og ender fuldstændig, da hans datter bliver revolutionær terrorist.

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