Nemesis by Philip Roth, published in 2010, eight years before he died, has got to be one of the most subtly instructive elegiac novels written about a widespread raging disease. In this case, polio.
In Greek mythology Nemesis was the goddess of indignation and retribution, typically against pride. And yet Roth’s tale is about a young man who is just the opposite of proud.
Nemesis is set in the stifling hot summer of 1944 when polio struck this country with renewed vengeance, especially in the Northeast — this was 11 years before the Salk vaccine and 16 before the Sabin.