Philip Roth's American Pastoral makes $80,000 at annotated novel auction

A signed and annotated copy of Philip Roth's American Pastoral (1997) led Christie's First Editions, Second Thoughts sale at Christie's New York on December 3 with a final bid of $80,000.

The sale, featuring works annotated by their famous authors, was held to benefit the PEN American Centre, a charity that works to help persecuted writers around the world.

American Pastoral Roth
Philip Roth was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral in 1998

The critically acclaimed novel concerns Seymour "Swede" Levov, a businessman whose life was ruined when his daughter Rita set off a bomb during the 1960s, in protest against the Vietnam war.

Roth writes in his extensive notes: "The daughter & the decade blasting to smithereens his particular form of utopian thinking...His whole world in flames.

"Rita Cohen was for me the embodiment of the forces of the nemesis of the American middle class."

A similarly annotated copy of Don Delillo's magnum opus Underworld (1997) achieved $57,000.

The New York Times voted the staggeringly dense work as the best novel of the past 25 years in 2006.  

Dellilo explains: "Novel took 5 years to write--autumn 1991 to autumn 1996. Title applies to a number of events and themes ranging from J. Edgar Hoover's presence in the prologue to an underground nuclear explosion in the Epilogue, from subway graffiti to a (fictional) movie directed by Sergei Eisenstein (etc.)."

The auction realised total sales of $918,800.

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