'The Anatomy Lesson is a ferocious, heartfelt book - lavish with laughs and flamboyant inventions' John Updike
With his fortieth birthday receding into the distance, along with his hairline and his most successful novel, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction – pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, finds himself physically unable to write a line.
He treks from one doctor to another, but none can find a cause for the pain and nobody can assuage it. Could it be, he wonders to himself, that the cause of the pain is nothing less than the books he has written?
As he grapples with this possibility, he tries an onslaught of painkillers, then vodka, and finally marijuana. He contemplates threatening the pain with suicide, attempting to scare it out of his system. He toys with the prospect of a dramatic career change. What will it take for the pain to finally leave him alone?
Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey on 19 March 1933. The second child of second-generation Americans, Bess and Herman Roth, Roth grew up in the largely Jewish community of Weequahic, a neighbourhood he was to return to time and again in his writing. After graduating from Weequahic High School in 1950, he attended Bucknell University, Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago, where he received a scholarship to complete his M.A. in English Literature.
In 1959, Roth published
Goodbye, Columbus – a collection of stories, and a novella – for which he received the National Book Award. Ten years later, the publication of his fourth novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, brought Roth both critical and commercial success, firmly securing his reputation as one of America’s finest young writers. Roth was the author of thirty-one books, including those that were to follow the fortunes of Nathan Zuckerman, and a fictional narrator named Philip Roth, through which he explored and gave voice to the complexities of the American experience in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.
Roth’s lasting contribution to literature was widely recognised throughout his lifetime, both in the US and abroad. Among other commendations he was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the International Man Booker Prize, twice the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, and presented with the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal by Presidents Clinton and Obama, respectively.
Philip Roth died on 22 May 2018 at the age of eighty-five having retired from writing six years previously.