First published in 2004 and now streaming as a TV series on Foxtel, Roth’s novel eerily predicted the rise of a Trump-like figure. It conjures a counter-factual history set at the start of the war, when aviator-turned-celebrity Charles Lindbergh emerges as a surprise Republican candidate, campaigning on a promise of isolationism with the slogan “America First”. Lindbergh runs against Franklin D. Roosevelt and wins.
In real life, Lindbergh was both wildly popular and a Nazi sympathiser, who spoke out against war with Germany at rallies for isolationist, anti-Semitic lobby group America First.
Roth’s story is a warning against political zealotry and populism and the threat they pose to democratic ideals. It’s not impossible to imagine Roth’s fiction playing out. It’s why dystopian novels, and children’s games, are most powerful when there is enough reality in them to be plausible – even if it does make you lose some sleep.