Philip Roth, fearless and celebrated author, dies at 85

Philip Roth, fearless and celebrated author, dies at 85

Philip Roth, fearless and celebrated author, dies at 85

In 2005 Roth became only the third living writer to have his books enshrined in the Library of Congress. Roth was known for work that was amusing, often gross, and deeply connected to his Jewish roots. When Roth won the Man Booker International Prize, in 2011, a judge resigned, alleging that the author suffered from terminal solipsism and went "on and on and on about the same subject in nearly every single book".

Philip Roth, who has died at 85, was a titan of post-War literature - by some assessments, the greatest of his generation. "If I'm not an American, I'm nothing", said Roth. But he received virtually every other literary honor, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle prizes and, in 1998, the Pulitzer for "American Pastoral". Women in his books were at times little more than objects of desire and rage and The Village Voice once put his picture on its cover, condemning him as a misogynist.

A prolific essayist, critic and novelist, the 1990s were the height of his productivity, exemplified by his widely admired trilogy - "American Pastoral" (1997), "I Married a Communist" (1998) and "The Human Stain" (2000). Recalling being shouted at by hostile students after the event, Roth vowed to "never write about Jews again" - a promise, of course, that he did not keep. "The epithet American-Jewish writer has no meaning for me". He was the first three-time victor of the PEN/Faulkner Award, honored for "Operation Shylock" in 1994, "The Human Stain" in 2001 and "Everyman" in 2007. The son of an insurance salesman, Roth earned a bachelor's degree at Buckle University and a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago.

A contemporary of Don DeLillo Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer the late Philip Roth was the doyen of a whole literary era- but the Nobel prize evaded him

Roth taught comparative literature, mostly at the University of Pennsylvania.

Roth acknowledged as much in an interview this year with The New York Times, saying he was "no longer in possession of the mental vitality or the physical fitness needed to mount and sustain a large creative attack of any duration". Roth and Bloom were companions for several years before marrying in 1990; they separated in 1995. In 2010, in Nemesis, he subjected his native New Jersey to a polio epidemic. A year later, she published a bruising memoir, 'Leaving a Doll's House, ' in which she portrayed him as depressed, remote, self-centered and verbally abusive. In The Plot Against America, published in 2004, he placed his own family under the anti-Semitic reign of President Charles Lindbergh.

"You have to be able to compress and condense", said Mr. Roth. But, he added: "There are some days that compensate completely". It's enough. I no longer feel this dedication to write what I have experienced my whole life'. In conversation with David Remnick, director of New Yorker, trying to explain inner energy that guided him, he said: "I don't know where I'm going with this, but I can't stop. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through".


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