On the Moral Brink

Nemesis

by Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin, 280 pp., $26.00

Philip Roth’s Nemesis, set in Newark in the polio summer of 1944, places him in a line of writers who have used the plague condition to explore the resolve of human beings and the durability of their institutions under attack by an invisible, inscrutable, and deadly force. In this respect the plague condition is simply a heightened state of the condition of being mortal.

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