International Writers Magazine: Review Archives
by Philip Roth
'Its six feet deep, it looks good, you could jump down
in the hole. Like the old guy used to say who I first dug with,
its got to be flat enough to lay a bed out on it.
about a grave, a grave in the graveyard where our hero ends up. In the
books very beginning so dont worry, Im not revealing
its denouement, you wont be deprived of all its surprises. Not because
of this review. There is actually nothing surprising in the Everymans
story, not in the common sense of the word there are no twists,
there is a very little suspense, there are no worries about characters
well-being. But what is surprising is the fact that the book is more than
interesting even without those usual attributes of a good
After short funereal prologue where our heros life journey ends
starts the story of his life all over, or better, starts the story of
his death all over. He no name, it is Everyman Roth is writing
about is an artist, a want-to-be-an-artist, who was working in
advertising for the most of his life. Quite successfully, so he doesnt
need to worry about money in his retirement. But he has lots of different,
more serious worries in his lets-finally-do-whatever-we-wanted-to-do-all-our-life
age. His body is failing, bonds to his friends and family are disappearing,
the sense of his further being seems to have never existed and the only
thing left are his memories. Those are nicely connected to all important
moments of his life after the first serious operation, revealed in calm,
simple and somehow entertaining way, shoving all crucial lives and deaths
he has met. But it is not a weepy lamentation about fleetingness of humans
life, it is not looking for life changing mistakes and wondering what
the life would be if you would have made another decision, in those times
when you still could have made a difference. It is not a book which would
force you to pity the main character, or to hate him for that matter.
It keeps its distance too much to allow that.
It reveals the cult of body from quite unexpected points of view, it makes
you wonder whether what is inside really matters or whether a good engine
is of no use in deadbeat car. It discloses to you both pointlessness and
the importance of a successful career. It touches the ups and downs of
suicides, shows destroyed families, friendships, things that should matter,
but somehow they dont very much, in contemporary society. It shows
you a lot for such a little book. It wont tell you whether (your)
life makes sense, which is a question everybody in a society where there
is no need to struggle for life asks themselves eventually. That is the
main task everybody has to solve in a directionless civilization. In the
world where one cant make a difference, in the world Everyman (and
everyman) lives. No book can give you a correct answer and this one poses
many questions (and certain amount of melancholy rising from them).
It is a glance at a life which is as useful and as empty as any other.
A life which has its meaning as long as one doesnt have a time to
think about it. It tells a story which could make you think about all
those things you dont want to think about for your mental healths
sake. But it is not persuasive. It just opens the door. It is like a picture,
nicely painted picture which can just please you by its colours, as well
as take you as deep into life (and death) matters as you can stand.
© Josef Fiser November 2007
Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)DVD
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck 2006,
Josef Fiser review
There are different ways how film-makers from formal satellite states
of the Soviet Union deal with their communist past.
Over Me (DVD review)
Directed by Mike Binder
Dr. Johnson a dentist, meets his friend Charlie (A.Sandler) whose family
died in one of the planes on 9/11, who suffers from post-traumatic stress
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