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  • Heidegger, Sartre, and Irresolute Dasein in Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal, Everyman, and “Novotny’s Pain”
Abstract

What is the pertinence for Roth’s The Dying Animal, Everyman, and “Novotny’s Pain” of the existential outlooks of Heidegger and Sartre? What, moreover, are the implications for Roth’s fiction of Heidegger’s mortuary conception of Dasein in the unification of past, present, and future, as opposed to Sartre’s conceiving of consciousness as nothingness, or lively possibility? And why do Roth’s narratives favor Sartrean possibility over the deterministic claim to “possibilization” in Heidegger’s “resolute” cognizance of death? Such are the questions I address, with attention to the interplay of philosophy and aesthetics in Roth’s narrative artistry, and in related reference to “Novotny’s Pain.”

I

In an interview concerning his novel The Anatomy Lesson (1983), Philip Roth remarked that narrator Nathan Zuckerman “has to be in a state of vivid transformation or radical displacement. ‘I am not what I am—I am, if anything, what I am not!’”1 The utterance has been traced to Jean-Paul Sartre’s encounter, in Being and Nothingness (L’être et le néant), with ecstatic relations. Sartre, anticipating Roth’s description of Zuckerman, similarly defines the ecstatic dimensions of consciousness that constitute Dasein (sein “being”; da “there”). According to Sartre, consciousness must fulfill three requirements: “(1) to not-be what it is, (2) to be what it is not, (3) to be what it is not and to not-be what it [End Page 441] is—within the unity of a perpetual referring,”2 but not—as is important for this discussion—within the a priori unity of temporal dimensions espoused by Martin Heidegger. Sartre, to be sure, is both indebted to and at odds with Heidegger, as suggested by the title itself of Being and Nothingness. The discord arises from the way Heidegger, in Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), follows G. W. F. Hegel and Immanuel Kant in anchoring the interchangeable nature of the ecstatic categories in a fluid past, present, and future3—rather than in the ubiquity of nothingness: “Dasein must, as itself, become—that is to say, be—what it is not yet” (BT, p. 287).

For Heidegger, then, the “ecstatical unity of temporality,” or “Being-there,” consists in a “state-of-mind” that “temporalizes itself as a future which is ‘making present,’” while “the Present ‘leaps away’ from a future that is in the process of having been, or else it is held on to by such a future” (BT, p. 401; see also pp. 374, 376). Thus, whereas Sartre draws upon nothingness to advance the concept of one’s being what-one-is-yet-is-not, Heidegger conceives of Dasein as the unification and historicizing of temporality in accord with Hegel’s view that time “is that Being which, in that it is, is not, and which, in that it is not, is: it is intuited becoming” (quoted on p. 482). For Heidegger that state of becoming encompasses distinctions among demise, dying, and perishing, as apprehended by Dasein via the temporal experience of anticipatory resoluteness (pp. 351–53; 477).4 Sartre, on the other hand, challenges notions of Dasein’s originating “in the heart of a temporal process” (p. 25) because he posits the nothingness of consciousness as antecedent to, and as the occasion for, “temporalization,” since “the For-itself temporalizes itself by [first] existing” (p. 136) as nothingness.5

Similarly questionable for Sartre—and germane to narrative inauthenticity in the narratives of Roth—are Heideggerian claims about the possibilities of Dasein. Unlike Heidegger, Sartre celebrates the flight of the nothingness of consciousness (that is, of Being-for-itself) toward indefinite possibility rather than have consciousness become mired in the arguably deterministic unification of past, present, and future. Also deviating from Heidegger, Sartre usually speaks about “Being” as an abbreviation of Being-in-itself—that is, nonreflective matter. Such regard for Being thereby contrasts with Heidegger’s customary use of the term to characterize the mind’s capacity to indulge in “understanding” of “itself” (BT, p. 372) or, through the navigation of temporal dimensions, to structure or interpret Dasein’s encounter with external matter, phenomena, or situations, including “Being-towards-death” [End Page 442] (p. 38). Those concerns, as I shall observe, have dramatic implications for the narrative voice in several of Roth’s works.6

Also pertinent to the existential texture of Roth’s narratives is the way that, in Sartrean existentialism, the flight of the For-itself ceases in death, which, far from being the end possibility or potentiality of Dasein, is the erasure of ecstatic reflection and possibility. That is so, for Sartre, because death causes Dasein to be “changed forever into an in-itself”—that is to slip “entirely into the past” (BN, p. 115). For Sartre, the past, though a surpassed dimension that continues to frame contiguous identity, can no longer be what one is: “I am not my past,” says Sartre, “because I was it” (p. 116). Hardly part of a temporal synchrony for Sartre, the past stands at a definitive but still-inherited remove: “I am it in the mode of ‘was’” (p. 117).

Heidegger, on the other hand—in the more organic and ecstatic conjoining of past, present, and future—deems death an active “possibility” for Dasein and calls that resolute expectation Dasein’s “ownmost potentiality-for-Being, in which its very Being is the issue” (BT, p. 307). Thus unified in time’s temporal dimensions, Dasein is said to be “free for death, in a possibility which it has inherited and yet has chosen” (BT, p. 435; emphasis added). Heidegger here seeks to reconcile causation and free will by aligning destiny and volition in the “possibilization” of death. Such concern finds expression in the Heideggerian—that is, consummately temporal and therefore mortuary and “resolute”—themes and narrative artistry of The Dying Animal and Everyman. Still, I suggest that those narratives, along with “Novotny’s Pain,” intimate the pragmatic supremacy of “irresolute” Sartrean ecstasis over Heideggerian resoluteness.7

Precedent for elevating Sartrean over Heideggarian philosophy exists in the writings of Milan Kundera who, well known to Roth, is an existential author versed alike in Sartre and Heidegger. Just as Kundera can casually refer to “all the great existential themes Heidegger analyzes in Being and Time,”8 so, when elsewhere contemplating the Greek etymology of “ecstasy,” Kundera appears to refute Heidegger’s triune historicizing of Dasein: “‘To be outside oneself’ does not mean outside the present moment. . . . Just the opposite: ecstasy is absolute identity with the present instant, total forgetting of the past and future.” Thus, while “man desires eternity, . . . all he can get is its imitation: the instant of ecstasy.”9 Moreover, Kundera elsewhere relates the concept of preindustrial “ecstasy” to the value of “slowness,” or appreciation of the moment.10 While based in the present, rather than in mere nothingness, these [End Page 443] formulations implicitly reject the otherwise complex temporalization of Dasein advanced by Heidegger and anticipate a critical dimension of Roth’s narrative rendering of consciousness in the novels under consideration in this study.

As for Roth’s knowledge of Heidegger, recall that Nathan Zuckerman, in The Ghost Writer, when surveying Lonoff’s library, encounters the writings of the German philosopher,11 one element of whose philosophy may figure in Roth’s manuscript notes for The Counterlife. Roth there writes that his literary persona, Henry, will be “thrown into the world of raw feeling.”12 Similarly, in Everyman, we read, “That’s what grief can do to you. That’s how thrown we were.”13 This repeated term resonates with Heidegger’s characterization of Dasein as a phenomenon “thrown” (BT, pp. 183–84, 389–90) into moods, states of mind, or possibilities that occupy consciousness with the “ready-to-hand” or “presence at hand” (pp. 116–17, 227). Those are inauthentic objects of concern (pp. 400, 477), distractions from resolute cognizance of death (pp. 434–35) and cognitive dissolution. Heidegger otherwise calls such resolute sensitivity “thrownness into death”—that is, thrownness into the “potentiality-for-Being which is one’s ownmost” destiny, “non-relational, and not to be outstripped” (p. 295).

Such categories are similarly germane, as we shall see, to a consideration of Roth’s narratives and narrators. Indeed, Everyman, The Dying Animal, and “Novotny’s Pain” feature Heideggerian conceptions of ecstatic consciousness replete with the union of past, present, and future, or with various intimations of everyday “thrownness” called, either permanently or momentarily, to resoluteness. I say “momentarily” because David Kepesh, in The Dying Animal, fails to sustain a resolute outlook, while the narrator of Everyman artistically elevates the present-at-hand over anticipatory demise. “Novotny’s Pain,” in turn, foreshadows such concerns by questioning the viability of sustaining resolute consciousness in a world whose “thrown” possibilities are, from a Sartrean perspective—and in a manner anticipating Roth’s invention of Mickey Sabbath—to be neither diminished nor discounted.

II

The Dying Animal dramatizes these issues in narrator David Kepesh’s wish licentiously to “play with time”14 as, from the outset of his narrative, he memorializes the genitalia and voluptuous breasts of the cancer-stricken Consuela Castillo. He recalls her in a healthy state, [End Page 444] without intimating that she is already ill or even dead. His retrospective narrative—including its surprising revelation of Castillo’s illness (to him a foregone conclusion)—itself consolidates temporal dimensions grounded in demise and death. Such congruity of temporal dimensions informs Kepesh’s statement, “Time passes. Time passes” (DA, p. 106) and inspires his quotation of Yeats’s sentiment about being “‘sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal’” (p. 102). Likewise resolute is Kepesh’s remark—again uniting temporal dimensions—that “if one’s healthy and feeling well, it’s invisible dying. The end that is a certainty is not necessarily boldly announced” (p. 36). “Invisible dying,” by implication, connotes transtemporal, anticipatory certitude of death, as implied by the text’s retrospective, transtemporal narrative form.

Still a further compression of time exists in Kepesh’s resolute jealousy of Castillo’s younger suitors and possible lovers. Time merges when Kepesh admits that, earlier in life, he would have been the interloper: “How do I know a young man will take her away? Because I once was the young man who would have done it” (DA, p. 40). Or, further blending past, present, and future, Kepesh finds it uncanny to “see that space empty of you but with her as she was with you but with the twenty-five-year-old boy you are no longer” (p. 43). His present tense “you are no longer” (emphasis added) itself unites past and present, while intimating old age and beyond. More resolute yet—and even more emphatic for the span of temporal dimensions—is Kepesh’s musing about being old:

To those not yet old, being old means you’ve been. But being old also means that despite, in addition to, and in excess of our beenness, you still are. Your beenness is very much alive. You still are, and one is haunted by the still-being and its fullness as by the having-already-been, by the pastness. Think of old age this way: it’s just an everyday fact that one’s life is at stake. One cannot evade knowing what shortly awaits one. The silence that will surround one forever.

(DA, p. 36; emphasis added)

This temporal, Heideggerian outlook on the inevitable diminishment of Dasein—that eternal silence—extends to Kepesh’s account of Castillo’s anxiety, since cancer similarly throws her toward resoluteness: “She no longer measures time like the young, marking backward to when you started. Time for the young is always made up of what is past, but, for Consuela, time is now how much future she has left. . . . Now she measures time counting forward, counting time by the closeness of death” (DA, p. 148; emphasis added). At this juncture, both the narrator and Castillo [End Page 445] are temperamentally resolute, a disposition linked to Castillo’s wish, as she looks toward her severed state, to have the narrator historicize the past with a photoshoot of her breasts, “facing the camera, and in profile, and then hanging over” (p. 133). Those arousing photos, in the future, will memorialize the allure of a glorious past that heads, beyond its present, toward the finality of Dasein.

Further, as pertains to the synchrony of temporal dimensions—and intimating bodily and temporal severance—is Kepesh’s recollection, addressed to the unnamed auditor of his dramatic monologue, of having experienced contempt for Y2K mania on the eve of Castillo’s revelation of her illness. While she sits “under the sentence of death,” the celebrants across the globe—including those appropriately in Times Square (DA, p. 145)—join in “nightlong merriment . . . a manufactured childish hysteria about embracing the open-ended future in ways that mature adults—with their melancholy knowledge of a very limited future—cannot have” (p. 149; emphasis added). Thrown into the world of everyday distraction and concern, they thus evade resolute cognizance that death “is possible at any moment” (BT, p. 302). And just as the narrator resolutely chides the midnight revelers for naïvely believing in an endless future, so he tasks “the mockery of the Armageddon” underway “across the time zones”—as if the evening were actually destined to usher in a “chain of horrendous Hiroshimas to link in synchronized destruction the abiding civilizations of the world.” Since that apocalypse inevitably proves evasive, the revelers delude themselves into believing that “the disaster of the end will now never arrive” (DA, pp. 144–45). The suggestion, however, is that one needn’t wait for apocalypse, since, in everyday existence, prospective death is inescapably featured in the coexistence of past, present, and future.15

Still, with regard to such “ownmost” awareness, the narrator of The Dying Animal hardly remains resolute. Granted, he proffers periodic jeremiads about the need for primordial cognizance, and his retrospective narrative is transtemporal in leading to the possibility of his visiting Castillo in the hospital on the eve of her mastectomy. Still, the novel ends irresolutely after Kepesh’s heretofore silent auditor speaks up, seeking to dissuade Kepesh from the visit, lest Kepesh be “finished” (DA, p. 156). Inasmuch as that word assumes added importance by concluding the novel, we are attentive to the Latin finire (finish, conclude); the French fin; and English final, finite, infinite. We are thus made mindful that such a hospital visit would permanently throw Kepesh’s inauthentic and much-valued identity as Casanova toward resolute cognizance of his [End Page 446] ownmost possibility. Kepesh—more customarily inclined to measure time not with coffee spoons but with ready-to-hand coeds—appears averse to crossing the line that separates trivial and tragic cognizance. He is, rather, an odd bedfellow to Roth’s Mickey Sabbath, perhaps the most resolute of Roth’s narrative personae, who nonetheless has a “laughable hunger for more,” including “God willing, more cunt! More disastrous entanglement in everything,” since “for a pure sense of being tumultuously alive, you can’t beat the nasty side of existence.” Such everyday “thrownness” leads Sabbath to exclaim, “It’s been a real human life!”16 and, relative to wishing the dead once again living, to envision a turning of the clock back to standard time.

A related shift toward Heideggerian inauthenticity in The Dying Animal, though relative to the merging of past and present, may exist in Kepesh’s prolonged account of the seventeenth-century licentious undertakings of Merry Mount as foreshadowing and, in a sense, being one with the uninhibited Gutter Girls of his 1960s campus experience and with the provocative mind of Henry Miller (DA, pp. 55–61). The emphasis is not on anticipatory resoluteness but on the inevitability of irresolute, transtemporal thrownness. Similarly irresolute is the way The Dying Animal concludes in a cliffhanger that features Kepesh balancing himself between resolute and irresolute thrownness. Readers wonder, “Will or will not Kepesh visit Castillo in her hour of need?” Stated otherwise, does he possess the resoluteness to confront his own present and future as a dying animal—and, critically, I here follow Heidegger in proposing to “let the term ‘dying’ stand for that way of Being in which Dasein is towards its death” (BT, p. 291)—or will he remain satisfyingly “thrown” in the “rudeness” and “immaturity” that one scholar defines as the essential humanity and dignity of Roth’s antisocial and playful heroes?17 The latter appears to prevail, as the novel’s indeterminate conclusion betokens Kepesh’s evasion of “choosing to choose a kind of Being-one’s-Self which, in accordance with its existential structure, we call ‘resoluteness’” (p. 314). In Roth’s novel, narrative form and philosophical reflection merge to connote human predisposition toward everyday, inauthentic Dasein—something that, Kepesh’s womanizing notwithstanding, Everyman and “Novotny’s Pain” suggest to be predictable, and, in less severe circumstance, both pardonable and enviable. [End Page 447]

III

Ambivalence about resolute consciousness also characterizes Roth’s narrator-imposed outlook on Everyman who, significantly, and relative to human consciousness, once “ran the creative department” of an advertising agency (EV, p. 129), and who, in his later years, while giving art lessons at a recuperation facility, admonishes the students to be less concerned with similitude than with their own Dasein: “He told them that they didn’t have to worry about what the arrangement actually looked like: ‘interpret it,’ he told them. This is a creative act’” (EV, p. 82). As made explicit in Being and Time, interpretation is a vital expression of Dasein (BT, pp. 119, 194–95). For Everyman, however, that interpretive capacity ceases when, under anesthesia, he suffers cardiac arrest. Possibly with Heideggerian resonance—that is, in a manner that transcends topical reference to “being” as mere “existing”—Everyman is said to experience the union of past, present, and future when surrendering his being; that is, his capacity to apprehend and make sense of death: “He was no more, freed from being, entering into nowhere without even knowing it. Just as he’d feared from the start” (EV, p. 182; emphasis added). These concluding words of the novel implicitly unite beginning and end, connecting the narrative not only to Heideggerian Dasein but to the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman, which dramatizes the certitude of God’s sending “death to summon every creature to come and give account of their lives in this world.”18

While analogues predictably abound between the play and Roth’s novel, Heideggerian resonance endures, since Being and Time references “Everyman”—in German, Jedermann (BT, pp. 464, 466, 468), likely of the morality play—to connote uncircumspect persons who fall into nonresolute distraction. These shared concerns of Heidegger and Roth invite inquiry into how Roth’s narrator—by identifying with, and interpreting, his hero’s consciousness—ends up departing from Heidegger’s claim that “coming-to-an-end implies a mode of Being in which the particular Dasein simply cannot be represented by someone else” (p. 286). To the contrary, the narrator of Roth’s Everyman, via identification with his hero, artistically represents one’s coming-to-an-end. In so doing, the narrator at once experiences, yet artistically transcends, the erasure of Dasein.

Pertinent to that narratological concern with existential outlooks on possibility and death is the black background of the novel’s first-edition jacket—the color likely connoting death, relative to the morality play. More Heideggerian, though, are the covers to the paperback printings [End Page 448] of Roth’s Everyman, at least two of which feature skeleton-watch mechanisms—ironic pictorial commentary on the function of time in the narratives. Assuming Roth either stipulated or approved these cover designs, we may further conclude that Roth’s Everyman in part dramatizes the transition from mundane “world-time” to “primordial,” resolute time, in which “Ecstatico-horizontal temporality temporalizes itself primarily in terms of the future” (BT, p. 479). The proposition that such temporalization occurs in Roth’s novel as a product of narrative point of view—an intratextual form of interpretation—attests, beyond the philosophical significance of the work, to its transcendent artistry: the narrator eventually witnessing, identifying with, dramatically articulating, yet knowingly transcending—as his hero cannot—the demise of Dasein.

Such a phenomenon occurs in Roth’s narrative because temporal unity coexists with Everyman’s consciousness, itself a function of narrative projection offering, as it were, a convergence of the past-perfect and future-imperfect. Which is to say, the text historicizes Everyman’s past from what the narrator currently knows to have already been Everyman’s future state of nonbeing—that is, of nonreflection. Creative fashioning of that transtemporal memory includes the narrator’s rendering of Everyman’s ostensible recollection—while Everyman, at the age of seventy-one, dreams, under sedation, of a childhood encounter with the bloated, floating body of a seaman killed by German U-boats (EV, pp. 25–26). Also conjured by the narrator is Everyman’s recollection of his earliest hospital visit—at age nine, for hernia surgery (p. 17)—where he witnessed the death of a young boy in a nearby bed: “Memorable enough that he [Everyman] was in the hospital that young, but even more memorable that he had registered a death” (p. 27). It is, of course, the narrator who interpretively registers the death and then attributes that reflection to Everyman. Such shared cognition also abounds in the narrator’s account of Everyman’s past wives and girlfriends (p. 15) and in the kinship Everyman feels, both familially and existentially, with the graveyard bones of his father (pp. 170–71). Here reside intimations of physical mortality and artistic immortality from ostensibly shared recollection of early childhood and midlife crises.

The narrator, again crossing ecstatic temporal dimensions and identity, depicts Everyman’s imagining, as an elderly patient, that he was “now . . . that boy” (EV, p. 43)—that is, the fatally ill youngster, years earlier, in the shared hospital room. The adverb “now”—via narrative imposition of contemporaneous cognizance on the past—also connotes the blending of temporal dimensions that stretch toward a death coexperienced and [End Page 449] then outlived by the Dasein of the narrator. The same holds true for the narrator’s description of the “ecstasy” (p. 127) that Everyman feels when surfing—no sooner arriving on shore than paddling back toward the vast ocean, which, as the narrator envisions, was “rolling unstoppably toward him like the obstinate fact of the future” (p. 126). Inasmuch as Everyman, when paddling toward that existential phenomenon, is said to look toward the line where the ocean appears to meet the sky (p. 172), his presumed encounter with the future brings to mind “ecstatical unity,” relative to earth’s “horizon.” Heidegger calls this phenomenon the “horizontal schema,” in which “Dasein comes towards itself futurally” (BT, p. 416). Such may be the implied interpretation (or Dasein) that occurs from the narrator’s having been thrown alongside the ready-to-hand life and death of Everyman.

Equally resolute, in a Heideggerian sense, is the way Roth’s narrator conflates past, present, and future when projecting upon Everyman rapturous memories of beach-dune sex with girlfriend Phoebe, followed, oddly, by the terror of their star-gazing evening walks. Terror for Everyman because the beautiful “profusion of stars” betokens mortality, since the source of what he perceives (which no longer exists) is a trans-temporal phantom generated by the millennia elapsed in the intergalactic transit demanded by the limited speed of light.19 As interpreted by the narrator, the otherwise enchanting evening sky therefore foreshadows “unambiguously that he was doomed to die.” Yet the narrator, perhaps projecting his own gusto for life onto Everyman, hardly sees Everyman as remaining resolute, for Everyman is also said to wonder, “Why then, at his age, should he be haunted by thoughts of dying?” since “the remote future will be time enough to anguish over the ultimate catastrophe!” (EV, pp. 30, 32). Such, reverting to Heidegger, is Everyman’s and the narrator’s “everydayness” in thrown reality, which suggests that “Death is deferred to ‘sometime later’” rather than recognized as “possible at any moment” (BT, p. 302). Still, as implied by narrative wavering and ambivalence in Everyman, the question is just how resolute humans can or should be in the limited time available for surfing the waves of life and consciousness.

An answer is best seen at the resolute moment where Roth’s Everyman acknowledges arriving at death’s door, “where he’d never dreamed of being.” As Everyman reportedly ponders “oblivion,” he is said to muse, “It was the remote future” (EV, p. 161; emphasis added). “It was” (past tense) here connotes it now—in the present—actually is the distant future. Here resides a nuanced expression of transtemporal Dasein, the [End Page 450] product of the narrator’s projection of such cognizance onto Everyman. Yet, via that same narrative mechanism, Everyman is elsewhere less resolute, especially when mindful of his father’s regard for glittering diamonds, each, as the narrator has Everyman recall, representing a “piece of the earth that is imperishable” (p. 57). That reference later informs Everyman’s assumed recollection, during his final surgery, of the dazzling thrownness of youth and middle age, especially as embodied in swimming, surfing, sunlight, and sexual dalliance. We read, for instance, of Everyman’s life-affirming musings about water: “How long could he watch the tides flood in and flow out without his remembering, as anyone might in a sea-gazing reverie, that life had been given to him, as to all, randomly, fortuitously and but once . . .?” (p. 125). In other words, what is one to make of that one chance at “being there”? Toward what shall we throw ourselves? Might self-indulgence in thrown reality and Sartrean possibility be preferable to, and more pragmatically “viable” than, the anticipatory resoluteness of Heidegger?

As suggested by his father’s jeweler’s loupe (the small magnifier that fits the eye socket) and the allure of diamonds, a possible answer resides in the importance of light and optics for Everyman’s youthful preoccupation with surfing:

Nothing could extinguish the vitality of that boy whose slender little torpedo of an unscathed body once rode the big Atlantic waves from a hundred yards out in the wild ocean all the way in to shore. Oh, the abandon of it, and the smell of the salt water and the scorching sun! Daylight, he thought, penetrating everywhere, day after summer day of that daylight blazing off a living sea, an optical treasure so vast and valuable that he could have been peering through the jeweler’s loupe engraved with his father’s initials at the perfect, priceless planet itself—at his home, the billion-, the trillion-, the quadrillion-caret planet Earth!

(EV, pp. 181–82; emphasis added)

Preceding, as this passage does, the narrator’s account of Everyman’s cardiac arrest and his “entering into nowhere without even knowing it,” the prosaic rhapsody of the reflection leaves readers celebrating the supremacy of consciousness rather than obsessing over the eradication of Dasein; or, the narrator’s irresolute enchantment with the “ready-at-hand” further possibilizes, and therefore marginalizes, the erasure of Dasein implied by Everyman’s death.

I suggest as much because the narrator’s outlook on the “ecstasy” (EV, p. 127) of surfing happens to correspond, on the one hand, to Sartre’s allusions to snow skiing and water skiing to illustrate the gliding of [End Page 451] Being-for-itself, via possibility, over the In-itself of dross matter (BN, p. 584). Related, nonetheless, to Everyman’s love of sun-struck surfing is Heidegger’s account of the centrality of the sun and vision as measurements of everyday time—as intimated by the invented means of such measurement, including sundials and clocks, and the architectural structures that foreshadow and reveal, for the discerning, the resoluteness of primordial time (BT, pp. 99, 137, 429, 466–69). Speculation thus linked to the sun and daylight leads Heidegger to expatiate on Dasein’s relation to “the moment of vision” (p. 437; bold in the original), as perhaps suggested, in Roth’s narrative, by one’s peering through the jeweler’s loupe—significantly engraved with personal initials—at the “quadrillion-carat”-diamond Earth. Yet this ecstatic celebration of individualistic Dasein belongs less to Everyman than to a Sartrean-inclined narrator, who coexperiences Everyman’s consciousness and then outlives his hero to celebrate and revel in the ready-to-hand. For the narrator—as suggested by his description of Everyman’s “daylight” surfing—the brilliance of everyday thrown pleasure and possibility outshines Heideggerian regard for brightness as a mere foil for resolute, concernful, nocturnal Dasein:

Everyday circumspective Being-in-the-world needs the possibility of sight (and this means it needs brightness) if it is to deal concernfully with what is ready-to-hand within the present-at-hand. With the factical disclosedness of Dasein’s world, Nature has been uncovered for Dasein. In its thrownness Dasein has been surrendered to the changes of day and night. Day with its brightness gives it the possibility of sight; night takes this away.

(BT, p. 465)

In its most positive sense, the juxtaposition of light and darkness may connote valuing “the light because of the darkness,” all a part of affirming “one’s limit as one’s fate.”20 Still, Heidegger implicitly tasks an inauthentic “looking-away from the end of Being-in-the-world” (BT, p. 477)—that is, from the “raptures of the future,” for those are “‘bright’” and “illumining” in their revelation of the “full disclosedness of the ‘there’” (pp. 401–2), by which Heidegger connotes the temporal and authentically resolute unity of Dasein in dying and death.

With far different valuation, relative to darkness, brightness, and death, the opposition between everyday and resolute Dasein permeates narrative voice in Everyman, accounting for Everyman’s expiration of consciousness at the same moment the narrator memorializes the visually resplendent carpe diem experience of surfing. That far brighter [End Page 452] celebration of the moment of vision finds consummate expression when the narrator accounts for the more conventional “ecstasy” (EV, p. 127) of thrown, everyday life—bringing to mind “the instant of ecstasy” valued by Kundera. The novel’s conclusion—a product of the interpretive union of the narrator’s and Everyman’s consciousness—therefore features a transcendent alternative to the resolute and necessary surrender, upon death, of the “there” of Dasein. While Heidegger insists that, on death’s threshold, Dasein “gets lifted right out of the possibility of experiencing this transition and of understanding it as something experienced”—which is to say, “transition to non-longer Dasein” (BT, p. 281)—the bifurcated consciousness of Roth’s narrator self-consciously witnesses and articulates the relinquishing of Dasein. Thus, if “sex is . . . revenge on death” (DA, p. 69), so too, for Roth, is the creation and perpetuity of narrative art.

Also at odds with the primacy of anticipatory resoluteness is how the narrator of Everyman—that is, the conveyor of Everyman’s ostensible consciousness—defines the quadrillion-carat planet Earth as “home” (EV, p, 182). The exhilaration of the utterance contrasts Heidegger’s sense of humanity’s anxiety-masking, “tranquillized self-assurance” when “Being-at-home” with what is “alongside” in “the average everydayness” of “uncanny” Dasein—that is for “not-being-at-home” in resoluteness (BT, p. 233). In contrast, the narrator of Everyman celebrates the immediacy and ecstasy of riding the big wave of life and consciousness. Such concerns—culminating, for Roth’s narrator, in the supremacy of Sartrean over Heideggerian conceptions of Dasein—are foreshadowed in “Novotny’s Pain.”

IV

In 1980 Roth not only revised the already-published “Novotny’s Pain” (in the New Yorker, 1962) but undertook a limited, ornate printing of three hundred numbered and signed copies of the revised story from the Los Angeles publishing house of Sylvester and Orphanos. Such initiative suggests that the narrative held special significance for an author who would lavishly memorialize a work of art having existential significance heretofore evasive.21 The narrative—including some of its revisions—resonates with critical features of Heidegger’s and Sartre’s varying accounts of ecstatic consciousness, but concludes in a manner consistent with Sartre’s tasking of Heideggerian outlook for being deterministic and unviable. [End Page 453]

Granted, “Novotny’s Pain” more evidently features conscientious objection to military conscription during the Korean War: “When the doctor told him to go back to duty like a man, Novotny refused” (“NP” 1980, p. 15). Therein resides Novotny’s civil disobedience, predicated on radical individualism—for what Novotny “wanted most from any government was that it should let him alone to live his life” (p. 2). Yet the narrative remains open to philosophical interpretation, since Novotny, when dealing with pain, “could not keep his brain from working” (p. 23), and he is incapable of taking seriously the colonel’s advice that the ailment would vanish if Novotny “just stopped thinking about it” (p. 27). And, relative to the uniqueness of humans, the colonel’s exclamation, “What makes you so special?” (p. 30) transcends obvious reference to selfishness to encompass (for the reader) individual Dasein.

That is especially so because of the untraceable, related ailments featured in both “Novotny’s Pain” and in The Anatomy Lesson. Like Nathan Zuckerman, Novotny feels “a pain for which there was no cause” (“NP” 1980, p. 26), either in “injury or disease” (p. 13). Granted, Novotny has strained his back carrying a potato bin, but “the X-rays showed nothing” (p. 16). Existing scholarship relates such pain, as experienced by Zuckerman, to Sartrean “pain consciousness,” indicative of the perceiving For-itself, which is itself not the pain.22 Also at play in Zuckerman’s pain are the multiple choices and possibilities that emerge from what Sartre takes to be the nothingness and anguish that make consciousness tantamount to freedom (BN, pp. 452–53).

While such categories may cast light on “Novotny’s Pain,” the story more conspicuously dramatizes the imposition of military regimentation upon individual freedom (thereby leaving the conscript with no vote, as it were), evoking Heideggerian resoluteness that finds expression via “something which does not show itself, but which announces itself through something which does show itself” (BT, p. 52). That hiddenness, yet disclosedness, pertains, for Heidegger, to the “Being of entities,” which, in a thrown state, “can be covered up so extensively that it becomes forgotten and no question arises about its meaning” (p. 59). Still, Heidegger maintains that—since “Dasein is anxious in the very depths of its Being” because of the thrown distraction of Dasein from resoluteness—“anxiety” can express itself “physiologically” (p. 234). At least some expression of such Heideggerian anxiety may account for Novotny’s pain, which stands akin to the “phenomenon” that, while hidden in the present, eventually turns toward its “ownmost”—that is, resolute—“content as a thing” (p. 59). Such are some of the concerns [End Page 454] dramatized in “Novotny’s Pain,” though ultimately with Sartrean rather than Heideggerian valuation.

Several factors suggest the relevance for Roth’s story of points of compatibility and divergence between two existential philosophies. For instance, we first recall that Novotny, after being drafted, “fell ill” (“NP” 1980, p. 1). I suggest that the phrase transcends its conventional meaning to approach an “existential mode of Being-in-the-world . . . in the phenomenon of falling” (BT, p. 221). Such is the use of the term that Roth himself evokes when, in an essay about Saul Bellow, he quotes a passage from Herzog in which Moses Herzog imagines himself writing to Heidegger: “Dear Doktor Professor . . . I should like to know what you mean by the expression ‘the fall into the quotidian.’ When did this fall occur? Where were we standing when it happened?”23 Relative to the fall of Dasein into everyday routine, Roth would likely have grasped the philosophical meaning of the key phrase, “the fall into the quotidian,” albeit cast as literal, and therefore as humorous, inquiry.

On a more somber note, and as pertains to such concern, Novotny’s having fallen into military conscription approaches Heidegger’s characterization of falling as “Being-lost in the publicness of the ‘they’” (BT, p. 220), or the “they-self.” That average or proximal Dasein is distant from one’s resolute “authentic Self” (p. 167) and is “dominated by the way things are publicly interpreted” (p. 264). In that public state, Dasein subjects itself to “tasks, rules, and standards” that have “already been decided upon” (p. 312) and that enhance the “power” of the Other in the course of promulgating a “dictatorship of the ‘they’” (p. 164)—a distraction from resolute consciousness. As such issues affect Novotny, military regimentation and the expectation of dutiful obedience mask the anxiety of death by transforming it into routine risk. That distractive feature of “falling” constitutes “Dasein’s absorption in the ‘they’” and in the “‘world’ of its concern,” thus enabling “a fleeing of Dasein” from “authentic potentiality-for-Being-its-Self”—that is, from the deathly “face of its authenticity” (p. 229). Something akin to that evasion—of resolute awareness via absorption in the opinion and regimentation of the “they”—appears to resonate in Novotny’s reaction to the military conscripts, officers, and psychiatrists who resent his apparent cowardice. They fail to intimate—at least within the perimeters of philosophical speculation distant from the mandatory and usually efficacious obedience of military service—that Novotny is more deeply in contact with ontological and existential queries than they, if resolute, would likewise experience. [End Page 455]

The suggestion of Novotny’s being trapped in the outlook of the “they”—until he conscientiously objects—lends added significance to the narrator’s reflection that Novotny “was like a good many of the young men who suffered military life alongside him and had suffered it before him” (“NP” 1980, p. 1). The preposition “alongside” has an odd ring until we recall that, when Dasein falls, via “thrownness” (BT, p. 264), it becomes absorbed into the distractions of everyday “care” or “concern” (p. 458), and that such inauthentic Dasein is said to dwell “alongside a definite range of definite entities within-the-world” (p. 264; also see p. 80). Also pertinent to Novotny’s Heideggerian dilemma is how, in the morning, “his eyes always opened of themselves five minutes before the appearance in the barracks of the Charge of Quarters” (“NP” 1980, p. 1). That phenomenon may relate to how (for Heidegger) Dasein always manifests itself “in advance from the entity which it encounters” (BT, p. 88) because of Dasein’s “Being-ahead-of-itself.” It thus signifies its “potentiality” for resolute comprehension of “self-projective Being towards its ownmost potentiality-for-Being” (p. 236; also see p. 276), i.e., for the cessation of “possibility,” or potentiality, entailed in “Being-towards-death” (p. 306).24 Such are moments of Novotny’s resolute awareness, the most conspicuous manifestation of which, in Roth’s narrative, is Novotny’s primordial fear of death. That “anxiety” and “character of threatening” (p. 230) redirects the falling Dasein back to its ownmost “authenticity” and “potentiality” (p. 235) in its consciousness toward death.

For Novotny, that apprehension becomes aggravated by his knowledge that he may be a coward for fearing death. When, for example, the psychiatrist asks the private if he is afraid of dying, Novotny “broke down and admitted to a fear of death. He began to weep and to say that he didn’t want to die” (“NP” 1980, p. 25). Similar utterances abound concerning “his fright” (“NP” 1962, p. 53); his not wanting to be “killed” (“NP” 1980, p. 8); his being “terribly frightened” of “going to Korea” (p. 24). Other passages detail his guilt and shame when he observes injured and maimed soldiers. These apprehensions and encounters aggravate Novotny’s implicit guilt and overt “shame” (p. 25; also see p. 17) of being “afraid of dying” (p. 25). He thus quite nearly believes the charge that he is just “another kind of coward” (p. 29).

Still, to Heidegger’s mind, such shame customarily reflects a ploy, on the part of the “they,” to deter the individual from resolute cognizance of death: “It is already a matter of public acceptance that ‘thinking about death’ is a cowardly fear, a sign of insecurity on the part of Dasein, and [End Page 456] a somber way of fleeing from the world. Thetheydoes not permit us the courage for anxiety in the face of death.” Thus—and the following sums up much of the vilification of Novotny by the enlisted men and their officers—rather than accept anxiety as an inevitable prelude to resolute awareness of “that possibility [death] which is not to be outstripped,” the “‘they’ concerns itself with transforming this anxiety into fear in the face of an oncoming event,” while “the anxiety which has been made ambiguous as fear, is passed off as a weakness with which no self-assured Dasein may have any acquaintance” (BT, p. 298).

Similarly, and equally pertinent to Novotny’s dilemma, being “guilty”—though at first glance a sign of shame—calls one “back” to resoluteness “from its lostness in the ‘they’” (BT, p. 333). Thus, if, as David Kepesh remarks, within “every calm and reasonable person there is a hidden second person scared witless about death” (DA, p. 153), then Novotny’s fear, shame, and guilt lean toward Heideggerian authenticity, since “conscience” and “anxiety” betoken “resoluteness” (BT, p. 343), and since everyday conscience and guilt betoken the guilt of being separated, via “falling into the they,” from cognizance of one’s “ownmost- potentiality-for Being” (p. 322). That potential, for Heidegger, betokens both the birth of “responsibility” (p. 327) and development toward circumspect resoluteness. These, as seen above, coalesce in the cliffhanger ending of The Dying Animal. The question, as I shall now demonstrate, is whether such an outlook is deterministic, and whether Sartrean nothingness, as dramatized in “Novotny’s Pain,” represents a more freedom-inclined, invitingly spontaneous state of consciousness.

Key to such issues—specifically as they foreshadow critical dimensions of “Novotny’s Pain”—are Sartre’s criticisms of Heideggerian Dasein. As intimated above, Sartre taxes Heidegger for having, with respect to temporality, “completely avoided any appeal to consciousness in his description of Dasein.” Here and elsewhere Sartre implies that Heidegger’s conception of the ecstatic project evades the “nihilation”—that “revelation of nothingness” (BN, p. 85) that precedes and occasions notions of possibility and of Dasein’s varied temporal dimensions. Problematic, as well, for Sartre—and even closer to the concerns of “Novotny’s Pain”—is what he takes to be Heidegger’s veiled “religious sense” as it relates to Dasein and guilt, since “intuition of our contingency is not identical with a feeling of guilt” (p. 80), religious or otherwise. Nor does Sartre condone what he takes to be the anti-individualistic tendency of Heidegger’s “resolute-conception” of Being, since Sartre faults that resoluteness for summoning humanity en masse—that is, for [End Page 457] foregrounding the “we” rather than the “you and me” of “an individual confronting another individual.” Such, to Sartre’s mind, is the lack of personal regard for Dasein that emerges from a view of “the common ground of . . . co-existence” as predicated upon “the abrupt revelation of my being-unto-death” (pp. 246–47).

For Sartre, that Heideggerian formulation of Dasein is totalizing to the point of articulating “every particular possibility” belonging to an “ensemble,” thus constituting a possibility-denying “unitary synthesis” or “totality”—that is, an “undifferentiated state”—of all our actual possibles” (BN, p. 460). So much for the individual consciousness. This totalization, moreover, renders up a faulty notion of death, since, for Sartre, death is “particular” and often absurd rather than predictably being “a resolved chord at the end of a melody” (p. 533).

Nor does Sartre agree that death is the beginning and end-all of consciousness, since Dasein—including its associations with “anguish” and “unauthenticity”—is to “be understood only on the foundation of an original project of living; that is, on an original choice of our being.” That freedom-based “more fundamental project” (BN, p. 564) of Dasein originates in possibilities emerging from noncontingent nothingness rather than from formulations that associate death with free-willed potentiality. As dramatized in “Novotny’s Pain,” the project of living—the unqualified flight of consciousness toward possibility—trumps Heideggerian resoluteness toward death; hence, Novotny’s existential project and possibilities: “All he wanted was his chance at life. That was all” (“NP” 1980, p. 23). He is, moreover, inclined to encounter time less as a function of his ownmost possibility toward death than as an audit of the hours he wastes scrubbing bins and filling them with dirty potatoes: he “counted up the number of hours he had spent scrubbing out what hadn’t even needed to be scrubbed. At a dollar and a quarter an hour, he would have made over twenty dollars” (“NP” 1962, p. 47). He then juxtaposes that absurd waste of time with the number of consecutive hours that he has ever spent with his girlfriend, Rose Anne: “once they had had twelve hours” in a motel room, during which time they had not worried about meals, and “never in his life had he been so excited” (“NP” 1980, p. 6; emphasis added).

That comparison of generative time with that spent in the meaningless repetition of tasks coincides with Sartrean philosophy as offered by Simone de Beauvoir. In The Ethics of Ambiguity, she notes that “there is no more obnoxious way to punish a man than to force him to perform acts which make no sense to him, as when one empties and fills the [End Page 458] same ditch indefinitely,” for such tasks forbid a man from justifying his very “existence,” relative to “possibilities.” Novotny’s similar contempt for what de Beauvoir calls “useless effort”25 lends itself, in Sartrean terms, to the possibilities of life rather than to resolute anticipation of death, with Rose Anne’s very name evoking the mandate to take time to appreciate the benefits of everydayness, however transient.

Several such possibilities exist in the unabashed sexuality of Rose Anne, who in one letter offers detailed thoughts about the pleasure of contemplating Novotny’s naked body. With arguably Sartrean resonance of possibility-as-transcendence-of-the-past, Novotny muses on “scenes of passion that he and she were yet to enact, moments that would not merely repeat the past but would be even deeper, even more thrilling” (“NP” 1962, p. 48). Sartrean as well—relative to liberated, spontaneous possibility—are Novotny’s thoughts about a “beautiful future” (“NP” 1980, p. 10) in which he will know the “pleasure of being a husband, or television cameraman, or comfort to his mother in her old age.” Significantly, he feels himself “resolute” (p. 8) in those thrown, everyday yearnings, for the word “resolute” appears only in the revised narrative, and in its everyday sense of personal resolve. The text thereby conjoins fantasies of passionate indulgence with ready-to-hand possibilities, rather than having Novotny be preoccupied with the final chord of a Heideggerian dirge.26

Such also is the Sartrean drift of “care” in “Novotny’s Pain.” For Heidegger, as noted above, the term connotes either the everyday concerns to which Dasein attaches in a thrown state (BT, p. 157), or the authentic recognition of one’s ownmost possibility (as foreshadowed by “guilt”) in death (p. 365; also see p. 243). Novotny, however, unabashed by his everyday concerns, wishes to care for both his girlfriend and mother: “His girl friend he loved, his mother he took care of” (“NP” 1980, p. 4), as evidenced by the fact that he and Rose Anne would live with his mother “because he had to take care of her, too” (p. 25). This is an implicit rejoinder to Heideggerian conceptions of “care,” as is Novotny’s practice of dutifully saving money for the future. Such are the legitimate concerns and resolves that characterize a young man seeking a future with both conventional and exotic possibilities. The suggestion is that, while every man should be mindful of life’s transiency, he should—while advisedly falling short of the eccentricities of Mickey Sabbath—still make the most of its possibilities and responsibilities.27

This flight and delight, from a Sartrean perspective, suggest freedom rather than the determinism implied by the unity of past, present, and [End Page 459] future. Whereas, for Heidegger, the triad remains intertwined (BT, p. 374), Sartre, as seen, rejects the conjoining of past and present, and consistently emphasizes transcendence toward the noncontingent—that is, flight toward the perpetually unknown and surprising. In contrast, Heidegger’s many references to existential “possibilities” and “freedom” are, from a Sartrean perspective, nominal, since the unity of temporal dimensions prescribes willing disposition toward an arguably dead-end “potentiality-for-Being” (p. 237). I say dead-end because that potential has a resolute, foregone conclusion in the eradication of Dasein, which, for Heidegger, “is the possibility of Being-free for its ownmost potentiality-for-Being” (p. 183). Given that scripted conclusion about potentiality and possibility, Heidegger—his rhetoric about freedom notwithstanding—is otherwise professedly deterministic. He thus accounts for Dasein as “that living thing whose Being is essentially determined by the potentiality for discourse” (p. 47); as having its “possibilities and the ways . . . ‘to be’ . . . determined” by its “unitary primordial structure” (p. 169); and as conceiving its “ownmost possibilities” as “determined by the end” (p. 308)—all susceptible to Sartrean charges of bad faith for the surrender of Dasein’s unmitigated nothingness and freedom.28

“Novotny’s Pain” rejects those deterministic pantomimes of possibility and free agency. Although, when experiencing resolute “shame,” Novotny feels pulled by “necessity” (“NP” 1980, p. 1), he comes to embrace a sense of determination that is hardly deterministic, but instead implies willful resolve. Indeed—conscientious resistance quite aside—the first printing of the story accounts for how “he met the day with his usual decision. Some mornings, making the decision required that he swallow hard and close his eyes, yet he never failed to make it: I am willing.” (“NP” 1962, p. 46; emphasis added). Significantly, the revised printing of the story turns the first use of the word “decision” to “determination”; and “making the decision” to “deciding to be determined”—with both editions featuring the italicized “I am willing”: “he met the day with his usual determination. Some mornings, deciding to be determined required that he swallow hard and close his eyes, yet he never decided otherwise: I am willing” (“NP” 1980, p. 2).

That rhetorical enhancement of personal determination diverges far from the somber determinism awaiting a soldier burdened by dishonorable discharge. Whereas Novotny’s colonel had warned of lifelong consequences, the case proves otherwise and—relative to freedom versus determinism—settles, for Novotny, into a reasonable awareness of death’s inevitability, albeit with distanced perspective and liberated [End Page 460] outlook. As further concerns such issues, some of the deletions (< >) and insertions ([ ]) between the first- and second-edition renderings of the conclusion are philosophically significant:

Novotny awakens from a <dead> [deep] sleep to worry in the dark about the future. What will happen to him? What <won’t?> [next?] But surely those <are questions> [uncertainties] he shares with all <men> [mankind], sufferers of low back pain and non-sufferers alike. Nobody has ever yet asked to see his discharge papers so about that the colonel was wrong.

(“NP” 1962, p. 56) (“NP” 1980, pp. 32, 33)

The change from “dead sleep” to “deep sleep” eases the tone or resoluteness, while the transformation of “what won’t” to “what next” signals a shift to Sartrean flight and possibility consonant with the narrative’s rejection of determinism. Thus, to the extent that “resoluteness,” for Heidegger, connotes “letting oneself be called forth to one’s ownmost Being-guilty” (BT, p. 353), Roth’s dialectical rendering of Heideggerian and Sartrean forms of existentialism in the works here under consideration suggests that Heideggerian Being is less viable—literally, less livable—than is the related but critically transformed existentialism of Sartre, featuring, as it does, the possibilities of nothingness rather than the unified strictures of time. Such, as suggested by Roth’s varied encounters with existential philosophy, are the enticements of a Sartrean, rather than a Heideggerian, outlook on Being there.

James Duban
University of North Texas

Footnotes

1. Philip Roth, “the Art of Fiction LXXXIV,” interview by Hermione Lee, in Conversations with Philip Roth, ed. George Searles (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992), p. 182.

2. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (1943; repr., New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), p. 237; hereafter abbreviated BN. On Roth and Being and Nothingness, see James Duban, “Sartrean Nothingness: Roth’s The Ghost Writer, The Anatomy Lesson, Zuckerman Unbound, The Prague Orgy, and Exit Ghost,” Philip Roth Studies 10, no. 1 (2014): 11–33; James Duban, “Existential Kepesh and the Facticity of Existential Roth: The Breast, The Professor of Desire, and The Dying Animal,” Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas 15, no. 2 (2017): 369–90; James Duban, “Existential Revision in Philip Roth’s The Breast,” Partial Answers (forthcoming). Also see, for Roth’s debt to Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew (1946), Jeffrey Rubin-Dorsky, “Philip Roth and American Jewish Identity: The Question of Authenticity,” American Literary History 13, no. 1 (2001): 90–103; Amos Morris-Reich, “The ‘Negative Jew’ and Individuality,” Jewish Quarterly Review 97, no. 1 (2007): 117–19; James Duban, “From Negative Identity to Existential Nothingness: Philip Roth and the Younger Jewish Intellectuals,” Partial Answers 13, no. 1 (2015): 43–55. Here and below, I limit my discussion of Sartrean “existentialism” to Sartre’s pre-Marxist, nontendentious philosophy.

3. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), pp. 248, 482–83; hereafter abbreviated BT.

4. Heidegger defines perishing as “the ending of that which lives”; dying, as “that way of Being in which Dasein is towards its Death”; and demise as an “intermediate phenomenon” in which “Dasein . . . can end without authentically dying” (BT, p. 291).

On these distinctions and their implications for Dasein’s somehow living through the common conception of death, see Ian Thomson, “Death and Demise in Being and Time,” in The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” ed. Mark A. Wrathall, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 260–90; hereafter abbreviated CC.

5. See, for a comprehensive study of the two philosophers, Joseph P. Fell, Heidegger and Sartre: An Essay on Being and Place (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), esp. with regard to the above issues, pp. 62–63, 86–87.

6. For Heidegger’s conception of Dasein’s structuring and interpretive capacity, see Joseph K Schear, “Historical Finitude,” in CC, pp. 360–80. In commenting upon several dimensions of Dasein, I have found especially helpful David Farrell Krell, Ecstasy, Catastrophe: Heidegger fromBeing and Time” to theBlack Notebooks” (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015).

7. My observations thus go beyond those of Britt [no last name], “What is the ‘phenomenon of existential death’ in Philip Roth’s Everyman and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time?” http://classic-literature.yoexpert.com/classic-literature-general/what-is-the-phenomenon-of-existential-death-in-ph-37361.html. The piece addresses such issues as mood, anxiety, possibility, everydayness, averageness, and existential death as it pertains to the eradication of Dasein in Roth’s novel. The study also relates those emphases to the outlook on death of the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus (55–135 CE) and is, to my knowledge, the first published investigation into the pertinence of Heidegger’s Being and Time for Roth.

8. Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel, trans. Linda Asher (New York: Macmillan, 2009), p. 5.

9. Milan Kundera, Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts, trans. Linda Asher (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), pp. 85–86; hereafter abbreviated TB.

10. Milan Kundera, Slowness, trans. Linda Asher (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), pp. 2–3. See, as well, Kundera’s reference to his “old themes (existential and aesthetic)” in Milan Kundera, Encounter, trans. Linda Asher (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), nonpaginated introduction. Kundera also celebrates the transformative capacity of “existential mathematics”—that is, of “any new possibility” (Slowness, p. 41). Also, for Kundera’s knowledge of Sartre and Heidegger, see TB, pp. 8, 228–29, 251.

11. Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), p. 79. For the suggestion that the antihumanism of Lonoff links him to Heidegger’s support for Nazism, see Steven Milowitz, Philip Roth Considered: The Concentrationary Universe of the American Writer (New York: Garland Publishing), pp. 51–52.

12. Quoted, though without reference to Heidegger, in Patrick Hayes, Philip Roth: Fiction and Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 142. See also the Heideggerian characterization of another Roth persona, Mickey Sabbath, as being “thrown into the world” (Ross Posnock, Philip Roth’s Rude Truth: The Art of Immaturity [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006], p. 183).

13. Philip Roth, Everyman (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), p. 12; hereafter abbreviated EV.

14. Philip Roth, The Dying Animal (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), p. 102; hereafter abbreviated DA.

15. For a reading of the novel’s Y2K setting as it relates to disenchantment with American progress, see Matthew Shipe, “Roth at Century’s End: The Problem of Progress in The Dying Animal,” in A Political Companion to Philip Roth, ed. Claudia Franziska Brühwiler and Lee Trepanier (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2017), pp. 135–60. As for Y2K and the trauma of history, see Aimee Pozorski, Roth and Trauma: The Problem of History in the Later Works (1995–2000) (New York: Continuum International, 2011), pp. 103–18.

16. Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), p. 247.

17. See Posnock, Philip Roth’s Rude Truth, pp. xi–xviii, 9, 38, 48.

18. Anonymous, Everyman (London: Nick Hern, 1996), p. 3. The inside front flap of the dust jacket to Roth’s Everyman publicizes the narrative’s titular relation to the “anonymous fifteenth-century allegorical play.”

19. My phrasing is here indebted to physicist (and friend) Sam Matteson.

20. Fell, Heidegger and Sartre, p. 235. See, on Heidegger’s conception of authentic and inauthentic ways of seeing, Michael Gelven, A Commentary on Heidegger’s “Being and Time” (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1989), pp. 62–63.

21. The story first appeared in a 1962 issue of the New Yorker (October 27, 1962): 46–56; hereafter abbreviated “NP” 1962. It was later republished in An Anthology of Contemporary Fiction: The Single Voice, ed. Jerome Charyn (New York: Collier Books, 1969), pp. 194–214; was revised as Novotny’s Pain (Los Angeles: Sylvester and Orphanos, 1980), hereafter abbreviated “NP” 1980; and would later appear, in the Sylvester and Orphanos edition, in A Philip Roth Reader, ed. Martin Green (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980). I quote in the main from the Sylvester and Orphanos 1980 edition, with recourse to the 1962 printing when its phrasing is more compatible with either Heideggerian or Sartrean philosophy. Of the sparse commentary on the story, Debra Shostak helpfully notes “the meaningfulness of symptoms” as “social construct.” See Debra Shostak, Philip Roth—Countertexts, Counterlives (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004), p. 42. Till Kinzel more recently assesses the narrative’s attention to the “body politic,” “individual mortality,” and “individual freedom.” In a manner compatible with the concerns of this study, he also relates pain to the “confrontation with mortality,” though with reference to Tolstoy. See Till Kinzel, “‘Novotny’s Pain’: Philip Roth on Politics and the Problem of Pain,” in Brühwiler and Trepanier, A Political Companion to Philip Roth, pp. 161–71 (pp. 163, 164, 166 quoted). On a more biographical note, a further commentator relates the story to “Roth’s own experience in the Army in 1955 when, in basic training, he suffered a back injury and was discharged within the year,” also seeing the narrative as illustrating “the tension between mind and body” (Richard Sheehan, “Uncollected Roth: ‘Novotny’s Pain,’” The Philip Roth Society Newsletter 8, no. 2 [2011]: 22).

22. Duban, “Sartrean Nothingness,” pp. 15–16.

23. Philip Roth, “Rereading Saul Bellow,” 2000 essay in The New Yorker, in Philip Roth, Shop Talk: A Writer and His Colleagues and Their Work (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), p. 152. See, for the quoted utterance, in which Heidegger’s name appears, rather than Roth’s three-period ellipsis, Saul Bellow, Herzog (New York: Viking Press, 1964), p. 49; hereafter abbreviated H. The evocation of Heidegger is appropriate, since Roth suggests that Herzog is “about the problem of thinking” (H, p. 149).

24. For commentary on the conjunction of “ahead” and “alongside” in Heidegger, see Gelven, A Commentary, pp. 182–83.

25. Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity, trans. Bernard Frechtman (New York: Citadel Press, 1976), pp. 30–31.

26. My reading of possibility in Heidegger necessarily conflicts, in tendency, with the suggestion that Heideggerian dread individualizes—to the point of allowing a person to perceive possibilities. See Gelven, A Commentary, pp. 117–18, 165.

27. As Moses Herzog muses, specifically with reference to Heidegger and “the second Fall of Man into the quotidian or ordinary,” not a single “philosopher knows what the ordinary is, has not fallen into it deeply enough. . . . The strength of a man’s virtue or spiritual capacity [is] measured by his ordinary life” (H, p. 106).

28. See, as well, for other indications of determinism, BT, pp. 40, 303, 321, 399. Sartre, though on different grounds, tasks Heidegger for bad faith (BN, p. 534). My sense, by Sartrean standards, of Heidegger’s imposing perimeters on freedom finds corroboration in the suggestion that the future, for Heidegger, is not entirely “open,” but is grounded in “particular possibilities” that “become possible relative to what has already been” (Fell, Heidegger and Sartre, pp. 62–63). Other scholars stress the existence of free will within “determinate possibilities that shape and constrain what I can do.” Stated otherwise, “fate is both inherited and chosen,” since “both fate and destiny amount to an ability to gather ourselves into the possibilities that are determinative of a particular moment in time” (Mark A. Wrathall and Max Murphy, “An Overview of Being and Time,” in CC, p. 45). See as well the claim that Heidegger exposes “the vacuity of the rationalist ideal of absolute mastery and the pernicious way it denies the constraints of finitude by blinding us to the medio-passive character of some of the most important aspects of our lives” (Beatrice Han-Pile, “Freedom and the Choice to Choose Oneself in Being and Time,” in CC, p. 312). Still another scholar aims to bridge determinism and freedom by claiming that Heidegger’s reference to “determines” implies a sense that “enables us to ‘encounter’ and ‘understand’” (Michael Watts, The Philosophy of Heidegger [Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011], p. 15). As pertains to Roth, I have elsewhere suggested that his fiction dramatizes Sartrean freedom, with regard to everyday fulfillment and artistic creativity. See James Duban, “Hawthorne, Mill, and Sartre: Petrifaction and Tyranny in Roth’s ‘The Conversion of the Jews’ and When She Was Good,” Papers on Language and Literature 53, no. 2 (2017): 123–28; and James Duban, “‘Juice or Gravy’?—Philosophies of Composition by Roth, Poe, and Sartre,” Philip Roth Studies 12, no. 2 (2016): 71–82.

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
441-465
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-29
Open Access
No
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