By Philip Roth
Set in a Newark neighborhood during a terrifying polio outbreak, Nemesis is a wrenching examination of the forces of circumstance on our lives.
Bucky Cantor is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director during the summer of 1944. A javelin thrower and weightlifter, he is disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. As the devastating disease begins to ravage Bucky’s playground, Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: fear, panic, anger, bewilderment, suffering, and pain. Moving between the streets of Newark and a pristine summer camp high in the Poconos, Nemesis tenderly and startlingly depicts Cantor’s passage into personal disaster, the condition of childhood, and the painful effect that the wartime polio epidemic has on a closely-knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.
“Roth’s book has the elegance of a fable and the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama.”—The New Yorker
“An artfully constructed, suspenseful novel with a cunning twist towards the end.”—J. M. Coetzee, New York Review of Books
“Elegant. . . . Suffused with precise and painful tenderness. . . . Stands out for its warmth.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Like a very well-executed O. Henry story. . . . A parable about the embrace of conscience. . . .and what its suffocating, life-denying consequences can be.” –Michiko Kakutani, TheNew York Times
“Part of the appeal—and the strangeness—of Roth’s novel is the way that it renders this situation, with its seemingly undramatic topic and unlikely protagonist, without hyperbole, yet maintains a grasp on the tension and ethical drama.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)