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Trump, fascism and the culture war: Five years after his death, Philip Roth's warnings still hold


In an American political climate still divided, the aura of the fiercely anti-Trumpist novelist was the subject of celebrations in Newark, near New York, when the former American president should soon be charged there.



, thrust of anti-Semitism,

"culture wars"

: the writer Philip Roth worried about "the fragility of


democracy" .

Five years after his death, his anguish for a country more polarized than ever by Trumpism resonated again during a festival in his honor near New York.

Gathered for three days in Philip Roth's hometown of Newark, an industrial and multicultural suburb of New Jersey, dozens of actors, authors and academics discussed, played and read the novelist's works on stage.

The tribute to the novelist attracted hundreds of spectators who also traveled by bus through the neighborhoods of his youth and celebrated what would have been his 90th birthday on Sunday.

A fiction that has caught up with reality

Born March 19, 1933, into a middle-class Jewish family that came from the far reaches of Ukraine and Poland in the early 20th century, Philip Roth died in Manhattan on May 22, 2018, covered in glory in the United States and abroad, but without having escaped controversy for some of his books.

“I remember having received an e-mail from him, just after

the election of (Donald) Trump (in November 2016, Ed.)

saying “yes, he will suspend the Constitution”

” of the United States, told the historian Sean Wilentz at the “Philip Roth Unbound” festival co-produced by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).

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A journalist from The

New Yorker

, Philip Gourevitch, related that at the time of Donald Trump's victory, Philip Roth had sworn to him

"never to have written anything"

in his novels about the irruption of a populist in a democracy.

“Trump is the unexpected.

Even if, of course, (Roth) had, in a way, written the scenario”

of the election of the billionaire, estimated Philip Gourevitch.

Because when the 45th American president enters the White House on January 20, 2017, many reread Roth's best-known novel,

The Plot Against America

(2004), adapted into a TV series in 2020. This alternate history mixes authentic historical facts and inventions.

The narrator, Philip Roth, a Jewish child from Newark, recounts how the United States descended into authoritarianism,


, anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish deportations and riots after the fictional 1940 presidential victory of the aviator Charles Lindbergh, a pro-Nazi Republican, isolationist and supporter of

"America First",

a slogan of Donald Trump.

With his historical conscience, Philip Roth expresses his concern about the fragility of our democracy.

Cary Goldstein, Editor

But as early as 2017, Philip Roth denied in the press any parallel between Donald Trump,

"total imposter (...) megalomaniac"

endowed with a

"vocabulary of 77 words"

and Charles Lindbergh,

"true racist, anti-Semite and white supremacist sympathizer of the fascism"

but above all

"great hero"

of aviation.

With his


and his novels

American Pastoral

(1997) and

I Married a Communist

(1998), Philip Roth, armed with his

"historical conscience"

expresses his

"concern about the fragility of our democracy"

, according to publisher Cary Goldstein , co-producer of the festival.

Read alsoIn Italy, Giorgia Meloni gives the green light to the construction of a Holocaust museum in Rome


“the history of the

Plot Against America

resonates with our current political and social climate

,” organizers pointed out, Echoing Sign of Roth’s Thought, the festival sold out Sunday to listen to five during the nine chapters of the


declaimed by nine actors and actresses - including Cynthia Nixon, Tony Shalhoub, Sharon Epatha Merkerson or Sam Waterston - alone on stage behind a desk and a microphone.

Persistent disorders

For author Francine Rose, Roth's powerful description of the insidious fear of American Jews in her novel shows that

"anti-Semitism is a recurring phenomenon"

in history and

"not invented

by Hitler".

According to the American authorities and Jewish associations, the number of anti-Semitic crimes and offenses has increased in recent years in a country in the midst of ideological and societal turbulence.

The political landscape is not only polarized to the extreme between President Joe Biden's Democrats and Donald Trump's base Republican supporters.

But conservatives, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, also want to win the

'culture wars'

on firearms, sexual orientation and gender identity, multiculturalism and diversity.

Read alsoDonald Trump's headlong rush

These community tensions had been criticized by Philip Roth in

La tache


For the African-American novelist Darryl Pinckney, they represent a form of "bourgeois decay"

in the United States today


For his thurifers, Roth lucidly depicted the failings of the United States in provocative and satirical stories, with a deep reflection on the weight of history, Jewish identity, sexuality, aging and death.

A single shadow, however, hovers over the statue of the commander.

Contemplators have also accused him of being misogynistic, especially during the #Metoo movement, in 2017. However, for Francine Prose, it is necessary to distinguish between the female


invented by the novelist and the fact that the man

"n defamed neither women nor feminism”.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-03-22

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