History and Fiction

From the Arts section of Tuesday’s NY Times:

PHILIP ROTH’S NEW NOVEL — What might life have been like for the Jews of the United States had the aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh, left, defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt for the presidency in 1940 That is the question raised and answered by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Roth in the novel whose acquisition was announced yesterday by Houghton Mifflin. In “The Plot Against America,” to be published in October, Mr. Roth imagines life for his family in Newark and for a million other families around the country at a time when American Jews had reason to fear the worst. His Lindbergh blames Jews in a radio address for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany and, upon taking office as the 33rd president, negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Hitler.

And, as if that weren’t interesting enough, Roth has already responded to the Times’ write-up:

To the Editor:

In your March 2 Arts Briefing item announcing the acquisition by Houghton Mifflin of my novel “The Plot Against America,” you say my Lindbergh “blames Jews in a radio address for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany.” In fact, the historical Charles Lindbergh did just that in his “Who Are the War Agitators?” radio speech to an enthusiastic America First rally at Des Moines on Sept. 11, 1941. “No person of honesty and vision,” Lindbergh said, “can look on [the Jews’] pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. . . . A few farsighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not. . . . We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we must also look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.”