Philip Roth receives 'Literary Service' award

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 30, 2013 at 11:54 pm •  Published: April 30, 2013

"Every day brings a new heartache, a new tremor, more helplessness, and yet another reduction of freedom and free thought in a censored society already bound and gagged, the usual rites of degradation. The ongoing unmooring of one's personal identity, the suppression of one's personal authority, the elimination of one's security," he said, then added, "And anger."

"Anger. The maniacal raving of a manacled being, frenzies of futile rage, ravaging only oneself. ... The toll of the anger."

Decades later, the Iron Curtain long torn down, he ended his talk with humor and a reference to his reputation as the author of such ribald works as "Portnoy's Complaint" and "The Breast." Throughout his time in Prague, he had been wiretapped and followed. Finally, in 1977, he was questioned by police after leaving an art museum and its "ludicrous exhibition" of Soviet paintings. Roth was advised to leave the country; police then questioned Klima about his friendship with the American author.

"As Ivan later told me in a letter, he had only one answer, one, to give them," Roth explained. "'Don't you read his books?' Ivan asked the police.'"

"As might be expected, they were stymied by the question. But Ivan quickly enlightened them: 'He comes for the girls.'"