The Jew as Adversary in the Battle Over Obscenity, Pornography and Sexual Morality – Part 3: Roth v. United States

Samuel Roth

Part 1, Part 2

“If Roth were not the opportunistic, irascible, and sometimes megalomaniacal idealist he was, the early 1960s advances in freedom of expression would not have happened when they did” – Jay Gertzman1

Samuel Roth (Hebrew name Mishillim) was born in 1894 in a shtetl in the Eastern European region between Austria and Poland then known as Galicia. His family emigrated to New York in 1904, when he was about 10 years old.

Roth worked at some odds and ends jobs and then began writing poetry and resolved to go into publishing, where he would continually push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable throughout his entire career, ultimately getting himself arrested no less than 8 times and serving a total of nine years of his adult life in prison.

Having his offices raided at least once a year from 1927 to 1931, Roth was caught and charged for distributing a myriad of banned and obscene materials, such as the infamous Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (which is discussed in part 4) and portions of Ulysses by James Joyce (which is discussed in part 1). Both were unauthorized.

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  1. Jay Gertzman, Samuel Roth: Infamous Modernist, 2013, p.264