The trials of Nathan Zuckerman, or Jewry as jury
Judging Jews in Zuckerman Bound
in Philip Roth
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Trials are ubiquitous in the fiction of Philip Roth. From Peter Tarnopol's lengthy divorce litigation in My Life as a Man (1974) to the historical court case of John Demjanjuk that dominates the opening of Operation Shylock (1993), the trial is one of Roth's favourite tropes. This chapter argues that the four books which comprise the Zuckerman Bound series – The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), The Anatomy Lesson (1983) and The Prague Orgy (1985) – represent a detailed exploration of the ethical and aesthetic conflicts faced by Roth. Focusing on Roth's use of legalistic language in these fictions, it suggests that the trials (the tests and ordeals) which Nathan Zuckerman (the protagonist of all four books) undergoes not only reflect Roth's paradoxical responses to the critical reception of his earlier work by Jewish readers but also function as metaphors for the ways in which, historically, Jews have often judged, and been judged, by themselves and others.


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