Monday, September 11, 2006

'The Plot Against America' by Philip Roth

11 September 2006

It is 1940 in an America remarkably similar to the one we are familiar with - but here aviator Charles Lindbergh sweeps to victory in the US Presidential election, develops strong links with Hitler's Germany and keeps America out of the Second World War. The creeping anti-Semitism of the Lindbergh administration is seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy and his family in Newark, New Jersey. This is a nightmare vision played out very carefully and subtlely by Roth. He resists the temptation to tear his imaginary world too far away from the real thing and the closeness to real events and real people makes it all the more believable. His prose is dense with meticulous attention to detail and his first person narrator - the boy Philip with an adult hindsight - often flits back and forth chronologically in retelling particular incidents, all of which makes this a book which demands your attention - but is nontheless gripping. Occasionally I found the jump away from domestic family life to the macro political story a little too disjointed (as was also the case in Louis de Bernieres' 'Captain Correlli's Mandolin'). But viewing the small incremental changes in American society through the local life of the boy's family and friends provides a fascinating insight into how such apparently 'evil' regimes win popular acclaim. I was reminded of Edgar Reitz's 'Heimat' which shows the development of fascism in Germany through the eyes of a small local community. But as well as demonstrating the ways in which fascism could take hold of a democracy in the 1940s, 'The Plot Against America' is also (perhaps primarily) a post-9/11 novel drawing parallels between Jews then and Muslims now. A clever, chilling and thought-provoking work.



Post a Comment

<< Home