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  • Published: 1 December 2011
  • ISBN: 9780099542261
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $19.99


The stunning final novel from the great Philip Roth, now reissued in electric new backlist style

It's the sweltering summer of 1944, and Newark is in the grip of a terrifying epidemic.

Decent, athletic twenty-three year old playground director Bucky Cantor is devoted to his charges and ashamed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. As polio begins to ravage Bucky's playground - child by helpless child - Roth leads us through every emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering and the pain.

'The genius of Philip Roth...back at his imperious best in this heartbreaking tale... The eloquence of Roth's storytelling makes Nemesis one of his most haunting works' Daily Mail

'Cantor is one of Roth's best creations and the atmosphere of terror is masterfully fashioned' Sunday Telegraph

'Very fine, very unsettling' Douglas Kennedy, The Times

  • Published: 1 December 2011
  • ISBN: 9780099542261
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Philip Roth

Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey on 19 March 1933. The second child of second-generation Americans, Bess and Herman Roth, Roth grew up in the largely Jewish community of Weequahic, a neighbourhood he was to return to time and again in his writing. After graduating from Weequahic High School in 1950, he attended Bucknell University, Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago, where he received a scholarship to complete his M.A. in English Literature.

In 1959, Roth published Goodbye, Columbus – a collection of stories, and a novella – for which he received the National Book Award. Ten years later, the publication of his fourth novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, brought Roth both critical and commercial success, firmly securing his reputation as one of America’s finest young writers. Roth was the author of thirty-one books, including those that were to follow the fortunes of Nathan Zuckerman, and a fictional narrator named Philip Roth, through which he explored and gave voice to the complexities of the American experience in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

Roth’s lasting contribution to literature was widely recognised throughout his lifetime, both in the US and abroad. Among other commendations he was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the International Man Booker Prize, twice the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, and presented with the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal by Presidents Clinton and Obama, respectively.

Philip Roth died on 22 May 2018 at the age of eighty-five having retired from writing six years previously.

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Praise for Nemesis

Heart-wrenchingly powerful

Sunday Times

A mesmerically imagined work of realism... A shocking gem... A masterclass in literature and life, that reaches into the pits of the dead


What makes Roth such an important novelist is the effortless way he brings together the trivial and the profoundly serious


A masterful performance


Nemesis is an artfully constructed suspenseful novel with a cunning twist

J.M. Coetzee

The genius of Philip Roth...back at his imperious best in this heartbreaking tale... The eloquence of Roth's storytelling makes Nemesis one of his most haunting works

Daily Mail

Cantor is one of Roth's best creations and the atmosphere of terror is masterfully fashioned

Tibor Fischer, Sunday Telegraph

Very fine, very unsettling

Douglas Kennedy, The Times

A perfectly proportioned Greek tragedy played out against the background of the polio epidemic that swept Newark, New Jersey, during the summer of 1944

Adrian Turpin, Financial Times


Sunday Times

Nemesis - if it's not too sinister to say so - is a breath of fresh air, because polio provides Roth with a new, outward-looking and substantial subject around which his writing can thrive; and, perhaps for this reason, the book contains many of the things that I find most exhilarating in his work


Nemesis is brief, astoundingly assured and devastating

Chris Wayell, Time Out

The "tyranny of contingency" is his theme and he pursues it with the cool, bleak brutality of a Greek tragedian

Siobhan Murphy, Metro

Roth is best known for sex and jokes, and Nemesis features neither, but it is a masterly performance none the less: an angry kaddish, or furious act of mourning, as deft and subtle in its construction as it is wrenchingly violent emotionally. Unmistakably a late work, it recalls Beethoven's Op. 127

Lewis Jones, Spectator

Roth's book has the elegance of a fable and the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama

New Yorker

Roth has given us a novel that is as moving and surprising as it is cruel and melancholy

Jason Cowley, New Statesman, Christmas round up

An affecting work, with a memorable twist

Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

I admired Philip Roth's Nemesis

David Nicholls, Guardian, Christmas round up

Roth's best novel for some time

Rose Tremain, Guardian, Christmas round up

Grave little masterpiece

David Sexton, Evening Standard, Christmas round up

A story simply told

Alan Taylor, Sunday Herald, Christmas round up

Roth is a superb narrator, and the pace and balance of this fairly short work is excellent. The Newark of 1944 as well as the idyllic nostalgic summer camp of Indian Hill is evoked with feeling and emotion

Historical Novels Review

This is Vintage Roth: the story of a good man worn down - and finally ruined - by circumstance. Everything about it is perfectly judged...the writing throughout is flawless and the ending, when it comes, is both clever and profoundly moving


An elegiac and eloquent late work that brims with unexpected sentiment

Emma Hagestadt, Independent

It's hauntingly scary...a very well-told story

William Leith, Evening Standard

A superbly managed novel. It may not be long, but it's full, complete. Roth's ear has never been better, and there is an almost unbelievable mastery of technique in the way that the prose slips between narrative and speech. This is unputdownable, and although it is one of my jobs to show you how authors do this kind of thing, I can't here, except by invoking some kind of magical talent on Roth's part

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian



A poignant, humane novel about how brute bad luck can interfere with one's hopes of becoming a hero. The theme is reminiscent of Lord Jim - but for me, this goes deeper than Conrad's novel and is a better read too

Independent on Sunday

Roth's magnificent novel takes you into a city sweltering with heat and fear... Characters brim with complex believability and, from its perfect choice of narrator to its beautifully exact prose, everything seems in place but never cut and dried: quandaries reverberate around the inexorable momentum of its storyline

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

A very well-told story

William Leith, Scotsman

As suspenseful as a thriller and as emotional as any love story

John Koski, YOU Magazine

A tragic and moving story from one of America's greatest writers

Mail on Sunday

This is such an emotionally harrowing story

Daily Mail

Roth asks how we can live a full life given the precariousness of the human condition

London Review of Books

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