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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
authors.” (TC, p. 145) But Nathan goes fu rther in his equation
of the imagination and real life. The allusion made here to
Pirandello is perhaps not inapt after all. “What I have instead
[of a self] is a variety o f impersonations that I can do, — a
troupe of players that I have internalized, a permanent com­
pany of actors that I can call on when a self is required, an
ever-evolving stock of parts and pieces that forms my repertoire.
. . . I am a theater and nothing more than a theater.” (TC,
p. 321) What is critical about this theatrical passage is that, by
confusing the roles that one plays with real life, theater takes
the life o f fiction to its utmost extreme and breaks the frame
in a way that an actor might do by jumping off the stage into
the audience and taking one of the spectators out to dinner.
ART AS REDEMPTION
The theme of redemption is so pervasive in Roth’s work that
one is led to believe that this transforming power is not only
at the center of his writing but is also both the glue that holds
it together and the underpinning that holds it up. Ruth Wisse
recognizes the centrality of a rt’s redemptiveness in Roth’s
Zuckerman Unbound.
“At the heart of
Zuckerman Unbound
,” says
Wisse, “is a faith in the inviolate value of art. The artist’s private
failings are redeemed by his creation.”15 This simple formula
may indeed hold up for
Zuckerman Unbound.
But redemption
becomes infinitely more complicated in other of Roth’s works.
In
The Ghost Writer
, what is important is not so much the semi­
mockery implicit in Zuckerman’s wish to be redeemed — by
marrying Anne Frank. Rather, it is Roth’s serious assessment
in the novel of the true value of Anne Frank’s writing. “Her
responsibility,” as Zuckerman sees it, “was to the dead, if to
anyone — to her sister, to her mother, to all the slaughtered
schoolchildren who had been her friends. Tha t was her diary’s
purpose, there was her ordained mission: to restore in print
their status as flesh and blood.” (GW, p. 147) In saying this,
Roth attributes to Anne Frank herself, the real Anne Frank,
a serious redemptive purpose.
In “The Prague Orgy,” the epilogue to the trilogy o f Zuckerman
15. Ruth R. Wisse. “Philip Roth Then and Now.”
Commentary
72:3 (September
1981):59.