The Human Stain (Paperback)
by Philip Roth
|Format:||Paperback 384 pages|
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It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town an ageing classics professor, Coleman Silk is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real ruth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unravelled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, 'magnificently' interwoven with 'the larger public history of modern America'.
Publisher and industry reviews
UK Kirkus review
The theme of this disturbing and gripping novel is the stuff of Greek tragedy - how capricious human fate is, or can seem when that fate is unavoidable. Coleman Silk, a classics professor at a New England university, clears out the dead wood in his department with a hubristic disregard for diplomacy and tact; his nemesis, Professor Delphine Roux, seizes her chance to strike when an ambiguous phrase used by Silk can be interpreted to daub him as a racist; the witch-hunt that follows costs him his job and, he believes, provokes the death of his wife. Silk further defies the gods of political correctness through an affair with an illiterate office cleaner more than half his age. The plot pivots on Silk's darkest secret, which cannot be revealed here; suffice to say that a decision made in youth will plant the seed of an old man's destruction. And whom the gods wish to destroy, they first drive mad. Silk's story, narrated by Roth's fictional hero Nathan Zuckerman, unfolds against the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998 and there is no doubt that Roth sees both the president and the professor as flawed men, as all men are, brought down by malevolent forces. An angry and eloquent indictment of modern America. (Kirkus UK)
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