Indignation by Philip Roth

Book Review by Keir Hind | 07 Oct 2008
  • Indignation
Book title: Indignation
Author: Philip Roth

Philip Roth’s latest book seems to return to themes in his first, Goodbye Columbus. Columbus dealt with the problems society’s restrictions caused a young man in late 50s America, and Indignation deals, broadly, with the same theme in early 50s America. It’s narrated in flashback by Marcus Messner, a Jew from Newark in New Jersey (much like Philip Roth) who goes to study in Winesburg College, Ohio. He’s fleeing an over-protective father who is terrified that Marcus will be sent to his death in Korea. College means exemption from the draft, and so it’s vital that Marcus stays there. But though he’s an almost embarrasing over-achiever academically, his social life in the college conspires against him, with the Dean of Students expressing concern over minor problems like his changing dorm rooms twice. The fuss over such problems inevitably causes them to escalate – but there’s a few narrative twists here too, which dramatically change the way this book reads. It’s a short book, but it’s all the more powerful for being short, like Roth’s second-to-last book Everyman. And like that book, it has an obsession with death… It’s a retread of some familiar Rothian themes, but it’s a fantastically well written book nonetheless.

Out now, published by Jonathan Cape, cover price £16.99