Philip Roth's twenty-seventh book takes its title from an anonymous fifteenth-century English allegorical play whose drama centres on the summoning of the living to death and whose hero, Everyman, is intended to be the personification of mankind. The fate of Roth's Everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers and during his hospitalisation as a nine-year-old surgical patient through the crises of health that come close to killing him as a vigorous adult, and into his old age, when he is undone by the death and deterioration of his contemporaries and relentlessly stalked by his own menacing physical woes. A successful commercial advertising artist with a New York ad agency, he is the father of two sons who despise him and a daughter who adores him, the beloved brother of a good man whose physical well-being comes to arouse his bitter envy, and the lonely ex-husband of three very different women with whom he's made a mess of marriage. Everyman is a painful human story of the regret and loss and stoicism of a man who becomes what he does not want to be. The terrain of this savagely sad short novel is the human body, and its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.
Après une enfance passée à Newark, ville portuaire proche de Manhattan, dont est également issu l'écrivain Nick Tosches, Philip Roth étudie à l'université. Son mariage, qui tourne au désastre, est à l'origine des thèmes de ses premiers romans qui soulèveront la polémique, à cause de leur caractère cru et provocateur comme 'Portnoy et son complexe'. Malgré le scandale, Roth est très vite considéré comme un auteur influent. L'écrivain s'engage alors dans ce qu'il définit lui-même comme un combat avec 'les femmes, les rabbins, les hommes politiques, les psychanalystes et les critiques littéraires'. L'oeuvre de Roth, bien qu'essentiellement autobiographique, mélange les genres et passe sans retenue de la fiction à la confession, dans un style jubilatoire.