Thursday, June 24, 2010

Patrimony: A True Story by Philip Roth 2006

Winner of the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography

Philip Roth, the current dean of Jewish American writers, has written a slim but moving tribute to his father, Herman, who was born in 1901 at the dawn of the twentieth century and died near its end in 1989. The son of immigrants, Roth praises his stamina and his devotion to supporting his family. He includes an important section on his father’s employment at Metropolitan Life Insurance, making a clear and convincing case that his father never moved up in the company because of corporate anti-Semitism.

The father/son roles are now reversed and as the author tends to his aging father he recounts their family life in Newark and Elizabeth NJ. He talks about their relationship to extended family, their businesses, and their enthusiasms. There is a lengthy discussion of a large family association made up of his paternal grandfather’s mother’s line first started in 1939. And he writes about how he and his father enjoyed listing and reminiscing about the many Jewish boxers who they had followed when both father and son were younger. Some of the boxers his father had known personally.

Though his widowed father eventually moved to Bal Harbour, Florida, the locus of their life had been in Newark, New Jersey, a city which appears in many of Roth’s novels. Here Roth vividly recreates scenes of the Jewish immigrants and their progeny getting a toehold in America. Roth movingly narrates the decline and illness of a once vital man. And with his death and those of his generation went an early twentieth-century way of life. The best way to describe it is to resort to the cliché: It was the end of an era.

To read an article in the New York Times about Philip Roth's return visit to Newark and the role Newark played in his life, click here.

Father’s side of the family
Sender Roth – Philip Roth’s grandfather
Bertha Zahnstecher Roth – married to Sender Roth
    Charles – their son; married Fannie Spitzer; married Sophie Lasker
        Milton, Rhoda, Kenny, Jeannette – children of Charles
    Morris – their son; married Ella Klein
        Edward – son of Morris and Ella                    
            Florence – daughter of Edward  
    Milton – their son
    Bernard – their son; married Byrdine Bloch
    Betty – their daughter                
    Herman Roth – married Bessie;
        Philip – their son; married (and divorced) Claire Bloom; the author
        Sandy – their son; married Helen
            Seth – Sandy and Helen’s son; married Ruth
            Jonathan – Sandy and Helen’s son
Dr. Sandy Kuvin – Philip Roth’s cousin; married Michelle 

Author’s mother’s side of the family
    Millie Komisar –  sister of Roth’s mother Bessie; married Joe Komisar
        Ann Komisar – Millie and Joe’s daughter; married Peter

Sam Flaschner – original immigrant – “family pioneer”
Max Chaban – member of the family assoc.
Ida Flaschner
Harold Chaban – son of Max
Herman Goldstein - member of the family association
Bertha Leibowitz – niece; member of the family association
Celia - niece

Friends and Aquaintances
Lillian Beloff
    Kenny – Lillian’s step-son
Lenny Lonoff
Bill and Lillian Eisenstadt
    Howard Eisenstadt – son of Bill and Lillian
Abe Bloch
Max Feld
J.M. Cohen   
Louie Chesler
Milton and Ida Singer
Al Schorr
Al Borak
Charlie Raskus
Longie Zwillman
Walter Herrmann
Aaron Asher
David Rieff                  
Jewish boxers: Abe Atell, Battling Levinsky, Benny Leonard, Ruby Goldstein, Lew Tendler, Barney Ross, Bummy Davis, Slapsy Maxie Rosenbloom, Abie Bain
David Krohn
Harold Wasserman
Dr. Vallo Benjamin
Dr. Ira Flax
Isabel Berkowitz
Bill and Leah Weber
    Herbert Weber – son of Will and Leah Weber
Louis Dublin

Newark NJ
Federation Plaza in West Orange NJ
Galahad Hall, Bal Harbour, Fla

No comments:

Post a Comment