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Philip  Roth
菲利浦•羅斯
圖片來源:http://matrix.msu.edu/cls/viewcelebrity?first=Philip&last=Roth
主要文類:Novella and Short story
資料提供者:Fr.Pierre E.Demers/談德義神父; image credit - matrix.msu.edu
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Philip Roth

1933-     

In Honor and Memory of Fr. Pierre Demers  (談德義神父 1921 - 2002)

 

Biographical and Historical Background

 

Philip ( Milton) Roth (1933-    ), a Jewish-born American, writes very much out of his tradition-a kind of rebellion against his strict background-just as Hawthorne wrote out of his.  Almost all the important characters of his stories are distinctively Jewish whom he treats in a lovingly satirical way.  Although still relatively young, Roth has already had a distinguished career as a writer. He was born in Newark and received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1955.  Later, he returned to the University of Chicago as an instructor in English and a candidate for the Ph. D. degree (which he never obtained).

 

His stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories for 1956, 1959, and 1960, and in the O’Henry Prize Stories for 1960.  He has been Writer-in-residence at Princeton University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Goodbye, Columbus won the National Book Award in 1960.  He has recently published a new novel, My Life as a Man (Holt, 1974), which has received favorable notice by the critics.  His most sensational book to date, however, has been Portnoy’s Complaint.  As one critic pointed out, a host of Jewish mothers and a few rabbis took offense at the novel, but most crities, hailing Roth’s brilliant comic talent and courage, pointed out that Portnoy transcended religious and ethnic boundaries and represented the psychoerotic schizophrenia of contemporary man, torn between traditional morality and the new sexual permissiveness.  Like so many of his stories, it combined the “salt of bitterness” with “the tang of humor.”

 

Western culture has two main wellsprings, one of them the Greco-Roman society of the Mediterranean and the other the Judaeo-Christian theocracy (divinely guided state) which began in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.  The underlying difference between the two heritages is that the first stressed man’s responsibility to the State, while the second was most concerned with man’s responsibility to God.  Thus, the cultural differences between the two religions, Christianity and Judaism, because of the common ancestor, are relatively unimportant.  The doctrinal differences are theological in nature, and here the gap is wider, mainly caused by the Jew’s refusal to accept Jesus Christ as religious savior-the Promised One or Messiah.

 

Judaism today is split into three camps-orthodox, conservatives, and reformed.  The orthodox Jew (of which Rabbi Binder is an example) believes essentially what is found in the Old Testament and the Talmud, a book of laws.  He can be compared to fundamentalist Christian who interprets the Bible quite literally.  He wears a beard, dresses in black, and follows all the prescribed rituals, such as not using fire on the Sabbath, not eating pork (considered by ancient Jews as unclean), and using only food and utensils blessed by the rabbi, which makes them “Kosher” items.  The conservative or reformed-there is little difference-may or may not follow dietary laws, dresses in modern style, probably does believe in the literal truth of the Sacred Writings.  His ties with Judaism will be more cultural and familial than religious.  He will still have his son study for the bar-mitzvah (which is what Oscar and his friends are studying for), a series of catechetical lecture and question sessions with the Rabbi that prepare a young Jewish boy to answer certain religious questions in Hebrew.  When hi is thirteen the boy is “bar-mitzvahed” or officially initiated and accepted as a man in the society, with its privileges and responsibilities.

 

In the United States, where the story takes place, the modern Jew is often indistinguishable from the liberal Protestant or Catholic in his attitudes about God and in his general life style.  The orthodoxies of the preceding generations are dying out.  In “the Conversion of the Jews,” Oscar represents this new generation and Rabbi Binder the old.

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