SPIEGEL talks to American author Philip Roth about growing old, why George W. Bush is the worst American president ever and why he never gives out his cell phone number.
Philip Roth, who will be 75 in March, is one of America’s most critically acclaimed living writers. His 1969 novel “Portnoy’s Complaint” brought him fame, and he went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for 1997’s “American Pastoral.”Many of his novels feature Roth’s fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. Zuckerman appears again in Roth’s latest work, “Exit Ghost,” where he returns to New York after many years of seclusion in rural New England.
SPIEGEL: What will remain of the current president, George W. Bush? Could he be forgotten once he leaves office?
Roth: He was too horrendous to be forgotten. There will be an awful lot written about this. And there’s a lot to be written about the war. There’s a lot to be written about what he did with Reaganism, since he went much further than Reagan. So he won’t be forgotten. Someone has said he’s the worst American president we’ve ever had. I think that’s true.
Roth: Well, the biggest thing would be the war, the deceptions surrounding the entrance into the war. The absolute cynicism that surrounds the deception. The cost of the war, the Treasury and the lives of the Americans. It’s hideous. There is nothing quite like it. The next thing would be the attitude towards global warming, which is a global crisis, and they were utterly indifferent, if not hostile, to any attempt to address it. And so on and so on and so on and so on. So he’s done a lot of harm.
SPIEGEL: Since your book is set in that week during the 2004 elections, can you explain why Americans voted for Bush once again?
Roth: I suspect it was the business of being in a war and not wanting to change, and political stupidity. Why does anybody elect anybody? I thought highly of John Kerry when he began, but he couldn’t stand up against Bush. The Democrats aren’t brutes, which is too bad, because the Republicans are brutes. Brutes win.