Review

The Prague Orgy

by Philip Roth



In THE PRAGUE ORGY, Nathan Zuckerman is back in fine form,
recovered from the strange affliction that gripped his body and his
soul in THE ANATOMY LESSON. Taken "from Zuckerman's notebooks," THE
PRAGUE ORGY documents Nathan's excursion to Prague to recover the
notebooks of a potential "lost master" of the short story. Enlisted
by the man's son, Zuckerman must recover the notebooks from the
son's jealous  

ex-wife.

Not only does Roth mine rich comedic gold in THE PRAGUE ORGY, but
so too does he give us a haunting portrait of a city where the
writers, teachers and scientists are now demoted to menial tasks,
and where crooks and drunks run the government agencies. Seeking to
understand the situation, Zuckerman ponders:

"I imagine Styron washing glasses in a Penn Station barroom, Susan
Sontag wrapping buns at a Broadway bakery, Gore Vidal bicycling
salamis to school lunchrooms in Queens --- I look at the filthy
floor and see myself sweeping it."

Zuckerman experiences firsthand the paranoia under which his fellow
writers must live when he's accosted by the state police. Fearing
for his own safety, he manages to procure the manuscripts he's come
for, only to be met again by government agents on his way out of
the country.

At only 86 pages, this book is a short but fitting epilogue to
Roth's intense concentration on the life of Nathan Zuckerman. The
characters are steeped in comedic appeal and Roth's look at Czech
society under a totalitarian regime sees him at his critical best.
The ghost of Kafka hovers over this work as the combination of
fear, guilt, and doubt give THE PRAGUE ORGY a metaphorical quality
that perfectly mirrors Roth's portrait of the heart of Nathan
Zuckerman.

Reviewed by Vern Wiessner on January 22, 2011

The Prague Orgy
by Philip Roth

  • Publication Date: January 30, 1995
  • Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679749039
  • ISBN-13: 9780679749035