Philip Roth has been awarded the International Booker Award for his body of work. Hard to argue, you'd think, given his career and the highlights contained within it, particularly at the start and the end.
But not so. Booker has a tradition of controversy, and here we are again, with one of the judges resigning over the award. Carmen Callil is the founder of Virago Books and deserves tremendous credit for that - it's an imprint that has rescued many deserving writers from deleted obscurity. But her views here are difficult to accept.
It's a case of "emperor's new clothes", she argues, suggesting that Roth will be unremembered in 20 years time. Well, given that his career has already spanned 50 years and two of his early novels, in particular - Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint - are still regarded as major works, it's hard to see that prediction proving to be true.
He goes on and on about the same subject in every book she argues. Well, that 'something' is, if anything, the human condition, so it's a pretty weighty subject to cover, and surely worthy of serial attention. If you're going to dismiss Roth on those grounds you have to dismiss Dostoevsky, too, amongst others. Melville. Faulkner. McCullers. And on.
And what makes Roth's continued examination of the same themes so interesting is that he does so through the prism of his own experience. So what we read in late Roth is not the same as we read in early Roth. His latest works are extraordinary pieces. He could not have written Everyman at the age he wrote Portnoy. No person could. We are experiencing life through his oeuvre, unfolding and inevitable and unstoppable. That is a wonderful experience to be able to expose yourself to.
A worthy winner, I would say.