lundi 15 février 2010

American Pastoral : Philip Roth

American Pastoral by Philip Roth, Vintage book London, first published in Great Britain in 1997. Pulitzer Prize in 1998. In 2005 Philip Roth became the third living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

(…) I’d said only, « I’m Nathan Zuckerman. I was vice president of our class in 4B and a member of the prom committee. I have neither child nor grandchild but I did, ten years ago, have a quintuple bypass operation of which I am proud. Thank you.” That was the history I gave them, as much as was called for, medical or otherwise-enough to be a little amusing and sit down.
“What were you expecting ?” I asked Jerry.
“That. Exactly that. Unassuming. (…)What else? Always behave contrary to their expectations. You even as a kid. Always found a practical method to guarantee your freedom.”
“I’d say that was a better description of you, Jer.”
“No, no. I found the impractical method. Rashness personified, Little Sir Hothead-just went nuts and started screaming when I couldn’t have it my way. You were the one with the big outlook on things. You were more theoretical than the rest of us. Even back then you had to hook up everything with your thoughts. Sizing up the situation, drawing conclusions. You kept a sharp watch over yourself. All the crazy stuff contained inside. A sensible boy. No, not like me at all.”
“Well, we both had a big investment in being right,” I said.
“Yeah, being wrong,” Jerry said, “was unendurable to me. Absolutely unendurable.”
“Ant it’s easier now.”
“Don’t have to worry about it. The operating room turns you into somebody who’s never wrong. Much like writing.”
“Writing turns you into somebody who’s always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right someday is the perversity that draws you on. What else could? As pathological phenomena go, it doesn’t completely wreck you life”.
“How is your life? Where are you? I read somewhere, on the back of some book, you were living in England with an aristocrat.”
“I live in New England now, without an aristocrat.”
“So who instead?”
“No one instead.”
“Can’t be. What do you do for somebody to eat dinner with?”
“I go without dinner.”
“For now. The wisdom of the Bypass. But my experience is that personal philosophies have a shelf life of about two weeks. Things’ll change.”
“Look, this is where life has left me. Rarely see anyone. Where I live in western Massachusetts, a tiny place in the hills there, I talk to the guy who runs the general store and to the lady at the post office. The postmistress. That’s it.”
“What’s the name of the town?”
“You wouldn’t know it? Up in the woods. About ten miles from a college town called Athena. I met a famous writer there when I was just starting out. Nobody mentions him much anymore, his sense of virtue is too narrow for readers now, but he was revered back then. Lived like a hermit. Reclusion looked awfully austere to a kid. He maintained it solved his problems. Now it solves mine.”
“What’s the problem?”
“Certain problem having been taken out of my life _that’s the problem. At the store the Red Sox, at he post office the weather – that’s it, my social discourse. Whether we deserve the weather. Well I come to pick up my mail and the sun is shining outside, the postmistress tell me, “We don’t deserve this weather.” Can’t argue with that.”
“And pussy?”
“Over. Live without dinner, live without pussy.”
“Who are you, Socrates? I don’t buy it. Purely the writer. The single-minded writer. Nothing more.”
“Nothing more all along and I could have saved myself a lot of wear ant tear. That’s all I’ve had anyway to keep the shit at bay.”
“What’s ‘the shit?”
”The picture we have of one another. Layers and layers of misunderstanding. The picture we have of ourselves. Useless. Presumptuous. Completely cocked-up. Only we go ahead and we live by these pictures. “That’s what she is, that’s what he is, this is what I am. This is what happened, this is why it happened –‘Enough. (…)” p62-64