Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Philip Roth Dies at 85

Sheila Mcguire
May 26, 2018

His death was confirmed to The New York Times by his friend, Judith Thurman. He said he had reread his favourite writers, Dostoevsky, Conrad, Hemingway, Bellow, and his own books, and thought he had had enough.

Roth, in his books, poked fun at the wrath he incurred from some in the Jewish community. His best known works include Portnoy's Complaint, I Married a Communist, The Human Stain, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel American Pastoral. Three of his books were honored with the American Jewish Book Award, and in 1998 he won the Jewish Book Council's Lifetime Literary Achievement Award.

The author of more than 25 books, Roth was an uncompromising realist and satirist, confronting readers in a bold, direct style that scorned false sentiment or hopes for heavenly reward.

He was in his 20s when he won his first award and awed critics and fellow writers by producing some of his most acclaimed novels in his 60s and 70s, including The Human Stain and Sabbath's Theater, a savage narrative of lust and mortality he considered his finest work. By his early 20s, Roth was writing fiction - at first casually, soon with primary passion, with Roth observing he could never really be happy unless working on a novel, inside the "fun house" of his imagination. But for Roth the American experience and the Jewish experience were often the same.

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Although much of his work appeared autobiographical, Mr. Roth said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that his personal history represented only a starting point. A short story in the collection - Defender of the Faith - was about a Jewish army officer's conflict with Jewish soldiers trying to avoid combat duty.

"What is being done to silence this man?" an American rabbi asked in a 1963 letter to the Anti-Defamation League.

Roth died in New York City at 10:30 p.m. local time of congestive heart failure, his literary agent Andrew Wylie said.

"We all wanted to be Philip Roth". "Would Roth himself have imagined such a plot?"

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"The death of Philip Roth marks, in its way, the end of a cultural era as definitively as the death of Pablo Picasso did in 1973", he wrote. A panel moderator berated him for his comic portrayals of Jews, asking Roth if he would have written the same books in Nazi Germany.

'I don't want to read any more of it, write any more of it, and I don't even want to talk about it anymore.

Nevertheless, appreciation abounded for Roth's contributions to the Jewish world, including his championing of writers from Eastern Europe. His "Plot against America" found renewed significance under the Donald Trump presidency and he published "Nemesis", his final novel, in 2010, before announcing his retirement in 2012. Some: Lamentation of Portnoy (1969), probably most stormy and radical exploration of male sexuality ever carried out; The Heptalogía centered around figure of his literary alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, in which he explores in depth what it means to be a writer.

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