The Human Stain

human stain cover image The Human Stain

by Philip Roth
General Fiction
Vintage International
Paperback, 361 pages

Nathan Zuckerman is back in this 2000 novel set in the academic milieu of rural New England. This time the voice is Zuckerman’s while the protagonist is Coleman Silk, the dean of faculty at Athena College. Unlike our current NAACP leader in Spokane, Silk is Black passing for White and Jewish. He is accused by two African-American students of having made racist statements. He resigns. His life begins to further unravel before he begins to take it in his own hands. Roth has revealed that the story has been drawn from true events in the life of a close friend who was the subject of a similar witch hunt at Princeton. The friend was exonerated. Perhaps, not coincidentally, the story is set in 1998 during the Clinton impeachment hearings.