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Nathan Zuckerman

Nathan Zuckerman is a fictional character who has appeared as the narrator or protagonist of (and often functions as an alter ego in) most of Philip Roth's dozen or so works of fiction published since the late 1970s.

Zuckerman makes his first appearance in the novel My Life As a Man[?], where he is the product of another fictional Roth creation, the writer Peter Tarnopol (making Zuckerman, in his original form, an alter-alter-ego). Zuckerman is given a less indentured form of existence, though, starting with the 1977 novel The Ghost Writer[?]; here he is the story's writer-apprentice protagonist, on a pilgrimage to cull the wisdom of the reclusive author E. I. Lonoff (a stand-in for Bernard Malamud). In Zuckerman Unbound[?] (1981) Nathan is an established novelist and must deal with the fall-out from his ribald comedic novel Carnovsky. Though wildly successful (both critically and financially), the novel has brought to Zuckerman unwanted attention both from readers (who refuse to believe that the satyr-like exploits of his creation, Gilbert Carnovsky, were born of imagination, rather than experience) and his family, who feel betrayed by the way he has mined their secrets in the service of his own career.

The obvious parallels to Roth's own life as a novelist (with the novel Carnovsky a stand-in for Portnoy's Complaint) signaled Roth's burgeoning interest in the relationship between an author and his work. Such meta-fictional[?] concerns would be mined more deeply in Roth's series of 1980s novels, most radically in The Counterlife[?] and Operation Shylock[?]. By the mid-1990s, though, Roth would tamp down on the self-referentiality, and reintroduce Zuckerman as witness and narrator in a trilogy of historical novels: American Pastoral [?] (1997), I Married a Communist[?] (1998), and The Human Stain (2000). Zuckerman would also make an appearance in Salman Rushdie's 1999 novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet[?], where in an alternate universe it is the literary alter-egos (and their novels!) that are real.

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