Philip Roth's Other Europe: Counter-Realism and the Late Cold War

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

After befriending a small group of Czech writers and intellectuals, most of whom were high-profile targets of the Communist regime, Philip Roth returned annually to Prague in the early seventies. In Prague, Roth was the target of secret police surveillance until his visa application was finally rejected after his 1976 visit. During these years, Roth initiated the landmark Penguin paperback series "Writers from the Other Europe" and served as its general editor until the series' end in 1989. The Other Europe series was originally conceived as a way to help Roth's friends in Czechoslovakia get their banned work into wider circulation, but as this essay argues, it should also be understood as Roth's great counter-realist project: the creation of an alternative canon that stood in contrast to dominant literary categories on both sides of the Cold War divide. This essay incorporates previously unexamined sources - including Roth's personal correspondence, manuscript drafts of his work, and Czech-language secret police reports - in order to reconstruct Roth's experiences in Prague and discover how Roth's political imagination was transformed through its encounter with the Other Europe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-740
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Literary History
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cold War
  • counter-realism
  • Czechoslovakia
  • literary exchange
  • Philip Roth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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