Novelist Philip Roth once explained the 'most terrifying' thing about Trump

Getty Images/PoolPresident Donald Trump
  • Novelist Philip Roth, who passed away at the age of 85 on Tuesday, called President Donald Trump a con artist in a 2017 interview.
  • Many believe that Roth’s 2004 novel, “The Plot Against America,” serves as a foreshadowing of the current political climate in the US.

Novelist Philip Roth, who passed away at the age of 85 on Tuesday, referred to President Donald Trump as a con artist in a 2017 interview.

In 2004, Roth published “The Plot Against America,” about a family of American Jews in Newark, New Jersey, who are strong supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the novel, Roosevelt loses a bid for a third term to Republican presidential candidate and world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Roth once wrote that his novel was not meant to be a direct portrayal or a warning of current and future political times, but it has not prevented comparisons between the novel’s plot and the current political climate in the US.

Lindbergh’s character in the novel resembles much of what many see in Trump today: an isolationist with an “America First” philosophy. The novel features Nazi Germany interfering in the presidential election, prompting comparisons to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The novel also prominently highlighted the Jewish family’s fears of Lindbergh at the center of the novel, drawing correlations to the sentiments of minorities and marginalized groups in today’s US.

But in 2017, Roth said Lindbergh’s character and Trump were not similar.

In an email exchange with The New Yorker, Roth said Lindbergh was a pilot “who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius. … He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day.”

In contrast, Roth said that Trump is a con artist. Roth, a self-proclaimed Democrat, continued by saying that Trump “is ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognising subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Roth also said in the email that he expects writers and journalists to continue to use their right to freedom of speech and press as much as possible to combat Trump’s lies and threats to these rights.

Roth concluded his email by saying, “As for how Trump threatens us, I would say that, like the anxious and fear-ridden families in my book, what is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe.”

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