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Nemesis by Philip Roth

Nemesis (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Philip Roth

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Authors:Philip Roth
Info:London Cape 2010
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Nemesis by Philip Roth (2010)



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English (52)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  French (2)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (69)
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It's a short but very compelling book about an outbreak of polio among a Jewish community in Newark, New Jersey, in 1944. The central character has to deal with the consequences of the outbreak first at the playground he is supervising during the school holiday, then at the summer camp where his fiancé is working, then with the aftermath of recovery. The hot hot summer, and oppressive social context of a suburban society which is both subject to prejudice from the outside and rife with prejudice of its won, are vividly depicted, and it conveys better than any textbook possibly could the psychological impact of polio, both the general effects of any epidemic disease, and the specifics of this particular illness, viewed from more than fifty years later. It is actually the first Philip Roth novel that I have read, but it won't be the last. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 11, 2016 |
A truly admirable writer who gets you hooked on the building suspense, the characters, the complexity of the struggle between good and evil, and the psychology of the mind in rationalising one's actions or inactions. This is what I read fiction for. Challenging, thoughtful and enlightening. The skills with which this writer brings scenes to mind, has you identifying with them and thinking hard about them long after you've finished the book make him a permanent part of my pantheon of writing heroes. ( )
  a_forester | Jun 2, 2016 |
Not entirely sure what to make of this, if I'm honest. Bucky Cantor is an athletic young man who finds himself not in Europe, fighting alongside his friends, but stuck in New York in the hot summer of '44. He's working as a PE teacher and is playground supervisor of a playground in the Jewish quarter. In the summer the polio returns to the city. At least initially, it does not impact on the boys in Bucky's playground, but then it hits and hits hard. Children fall ill and some die. Bucky is unable to rationalise what is happening, he can't understand a God that can kill children in this way, yet can't accept that it has a non-human or divine cause.
Bucky's girlfriend is in a summer camp in the hills and freshair. After a couple of days of burgeoning epidemic taking more of the children and fewer parents allowing them out to congregate in the playground, Bucky quits his job. He takes a role as watersports director at the summer camp. Which is a perfect fit, but does nothing to reconcile him between his duty to the boys and the wishes of Marcia.
And all is going along swimmingly until a boy in Bucky's hut falls ill with Polio. Bucky is tortured with fear that he's brought it to the camp, that it is his fault. And so the disintegration begins.

As someone for whom polio is a vaccination we had in childhood, I can't grasp the fear. As someone with a scientific turn of mind, I can't appreciate Bucky's failure to grasp the cause of the illness. As an agnostic, I've long since dealt with the divine and find Bucky's conflict in this regard to be somewhat superficial. It seems that his turn of mind has God as something either purely good, or entirely evil. Something entirely fictional might be the rational response. So I found the guilt to be somewhat overwrought and overblown. I get that there's moral, I just don't think it worked as a morality tale. ( )
1 vote Helenliz | Mar 26, 2016 |
A young man struggles with the big questions in the midst of a polio epidemic. Why is there suffering in the world, so randomly and carelessly delivered? Who is responsible? Why does God allow it (engineer it?) I've always like Roth's narrator-who-is-not-the-main-character method, and he returns to that for this, his final novel (he says). Didn't like it quite as much as Indignation, but these two clear and simple books are interesting, highly readable, and curiously haunting additions to his canon. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
As you read Philip Roth's moving story of a Jewish neighborhood in Newark NJ fearful of the spread of polio, you can feel panic and paranoia as two boys are abruptly stricken. There is a desperation because of the lack of information about the disease as the vaccine was on licensed in 1962. The author's excellent writing examines the question of why God would allow innocent children to die of polio. I enjoyed this touching novel and I would highly recommend it as it is intelligent writing at its best. ( )
1 vote EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
It’s all a bit by the numbers, though Mr. Roth executes Bucky’s story with professionalism and lots of granular period detail.

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Philip Rothprimary authorall editionscalculated
Roth, Philipmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Mossel, BabetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The first case of polio that summer came early in June, right after Memorial Day, in a poor Italian neighborhood crosstown from where we lived.
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Book description
Situé dans les environs de Newark , à l'époque où éclate une terrible épidémie de polio , Némésis décrit avec précision l'impact des circonstances sur nos vies .
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547318359, Hardcover)

In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth’s wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor’s dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground—and on the everyday realities he faces—Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain.

Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children’s summer camp high in the Poconos—whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"—Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor’s passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood.

Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roth’s late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:53 -0400)

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Roth's "Nemesis" is the story of a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

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