Conversations with Primo Levi; Aharon Appelfeld; Ivan Klima; IB Singer about Bruno Schulz; Milan Kundera; Edna O'Brien; Mary McCarthy; and pictures by Malamud and Guston.
How is literature made in the writer's mind, and how is the writer's mind engaged by what is happening out in the world?
In Philip Roth's intimate intellectual encounters with an international and diverse cast of writers, they explore the importance of region, politics and history in their work and trace the imaginative path by which a writer's highly individualised art is informed by the wider conditions of life.
Milan Kundera and Czechoslovakia, Primo Levi and Auschwitz, Edna O'Brien and Ireland, Aharon Appelfeld and Bukovina, Ivan Klima and Prague, Isaac Singer and Warsaw, Bruno Schulz and Poland - what is the intricate transaction between the susceptible writer and the provocative time and place? Roth's questions go to the original conditions that stimulate the narrative impulse, and he puts them to writers who are as attuned to the subtleties of literature as to the influence of the surrounding society.
Also included are appreciative portraits of two of Roth's late friends, each transfixed till the end by his artistic vocation - the writer Bernard Malamud and the painter Philip Guston - as well as several cartoons drawn by Guston, a gift to Roth to illustrate his novella 'The Breast'. 'Shop Talk' concludes with Roth's essay 'Rereading Saul Bellow', a vivid presentation of Bellow's achievement and, in the spirit of this collection, very much a colleague's reading.