TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Facing up to the facts of fiction

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The Independent Culture
You should take 'My True Story', the subtitle of a profile of Philip Roth for ARENA (9.30pm BBC2), with a Dead Sea-full of salt. The writer has built his career on blurring the distinction between fact and fiction and prides himself on his unreliability as a narrator. This is the author who says of his autobiography, self-consciously entitled The Facts: 'I wanted to dramatise my own doubt about my ability to tell my own story.' Roth is even disclaiming the disclaimer at the end of his latest work, Operation Shylock. He now asserts that it was a work of fact, and that he only said it was fictional under pressure from the Israeli secret service, Mossad. Roland Keating has secured a wide-ranging interview with the novelist who in the past preferred to let his books do the talking. In this documentary marking his 60th birthday, Roth defends himself against charges of obscenity and anti-Semitism and discusses the extensive use of his own life in his work: 'Where a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.' Roth discovers he has truly made it on returning to his old high school library. They have no fewer than eight copies of his novel Portnoy's Complaint.

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