Entry updated 4 September 2021. Tagged: Author.
(1921-2015) Polish-born academic and author, in Palestine/Israel 1934-1955, afterwards in the US. He is best known for his first sf novel, Level 7 (1959; text restored 2004), which is deeply coloured by political concern about our nuclear civilization. A military officer describes his feelings and duties from within a great Underground bomb shelter, 4000 feet below the world gradually being demolished above him as World War Three escalates. He is expected to activate the nuclear destruction of the enemy on call, and to prepare himself for the transformation of the shelter into a Keep designed to keep a select group of humans alive for centuries; in the event, not even Level 7 is safe from the End of the World. The novel has received considerable attention, with a 1989 text edited and introduced by H Bruce Franklin, and the expanded 2004 edition, edited and introduced by David Seed, restoring Roshwald's original frame story, in which the dead protagonist's journal is examined by Martians (see Mars) millennia later in the course of an examination of the Ruined Earth. In A Small Armageddon (1962), these concerns are repeated as farce: the crew of a nuclear submarine threatens to detonate its cargo unless its demands – for Sex and money – are met, with Satirically exaggerated results. The highly specific Cold War context of Roshwald's novels has perhaps begun to seem archaic with the years, but only because of humanity's pro tem survival.
Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction (2008), a nonfiction study, returns to Level 7, which Roshwald discusses along with Walter M Miller Jr's A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959). [JC]
Mordecai Marceli Roshwald
born Drohobycz, Poland (now Ukraine): 26 May 1921
died Silver Spring, Maryland: 19 March 2015
- Level 7 (London: William Heinemann, 1959) [hb/Sheila Perry]
- A Small Armageddon (London: William Heinemann, 1962) [hb/Sheila Perry]
- The Transient and the Absolute: An Interpretation of the Human Condition and of Human Endeavor (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999) [nonfiction: hb/nonpictorial]
- Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2008) [nonfiction: pb/Shutterstock]
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