I am about to take off for a friend’s brithday party. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll get Phillip Roth’s “The Human Stain” in the original version. There is no need to praise the book here. Others have done so exhaustively and probably better than I could. So why this entry?
Because everytime I read the adjective human I have to think about how much truth a single word can convey. On the one hand “human”, an adjective, honours all the behaviors and attitudes we aspire to. On the other, it identfies, even in a slight derogatory sense, most of those acts we despise of but accept as consequences of our fallibility. Isn’t it amazing how a single word has evolved which tells our never ending story, the eternal tension between aspiration and fallibility?
So no “stain” is needed at all in that picture. But let’s face it, while probably more sincere, “human” would not have been a very good title for a novel.