Nemesis by Philip Roth

I’ve just finished reading Nemesis by Philip Roth novel. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to discover Roth. This is his 32nd book and he is now into his 70s. I do recall hearing about, and perhaps trying to read Portnoy’s Complaint, but it’s so long ago I don’t remember much about it.

But back to Nemesis. It is the story of a playground supervisor, Bucky Cantor, during a polio outbreak in the 1940s. Bucky is 23 and about to be engaged to Marcia, a doctor’s daughter.

Polio impact

His youth struck me because the enormity of the impact of polio on the boys in his charge and the consequences of the decisions that he takes seem cruel in light of his youth. Likewise his anger with God seems to me to be a young man’s anger. It reminded me of Gloucester’s observation in King Lear – “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport”.

Nemesis is a extremely good novel – short, straightforward, even perhaps simple and plain but it touches on some profound themes. I would say that it is definitely worth reading and that it is one of those novels that is likely to remain with you for a very long time.