Pulitzer-winning author Philip Roth dead at 85

Tonya Becker
May 26, 2018

How Philip Roth's Writing Transcended The Narrow Confines Of A Culture Philip Roth, one of the country's most celebrated writers, has died at 85.

A contemporary of Don DeLillo, Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer, the late novelist was the doyen of a whole literary era. But he received virtually every other literary honour, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle prizes and, in 1998, the Pulitzer for American Pastoral. The book was published by Virago Press, whose founder, Carmen Callil, was the same judge who quit years later from the Booker committee. Two years later, he stunned the literary world with the announcement that he would no longer write fiction.

He long managed to sustain his literary output both in terms of quality as well as quantity, as exemplified by his widely admired political trilogy that included "American Pastoral", "I Married a Communist" (1998) and "The Human Stain" (2000).

Not all of Philip Roth's best work appeared in the pages of an award-winning novel.


"I had reached the end".

"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". "I set out upon the great task of doing nothing". 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.

Ambitious and unusual, The Plot Against America tells an alternate version of 20th century history in which aviator and anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh wins the Republican nomination for USA president for the 1940 election and defeats Franklin Roosevelt.

The author has repeatedly insisted on a distinct line between fact and fiction in his work, but as he advanced into his 80s poignant reflections on mortality haunted his later novels, including "Everyman" and "Nemesis".


Roth would later focus more deeply on Jewish life, mortality, and American history, often setting his novels in Newark, New Jersey, where Roth grew up. Roth spent much time defending himself at various Jewish institutions in the years after the essay's publication, according to the New York Review of Books. But for Roth the American experience and the Jewish experience were often the same.

His "maleness" offended many readers, with his 1969 book Portnoy's Complaint, about the young, middle-class, sex-obsessed Alexander Portnoy leaving critics happy and elders enraged.

In The Plot Against America, Roth explores a political alternative history - one in which Franklin D Roosevelt is defeated by "America first" candidate Charles Lindbergh in the 1940 United States election, resulting in growing anti-Semitism and the persecution of the author's Jewish-American family.

Psychological introspection - resorting to use of alter ego; As novelist Nathan Zuckerman, voice of nine of his novels - was a permanent battlefield of prolific Roth, with memorable works such as Patrimony (1991), in which protagonist examines his complex relationship with his far and is faced with difficulty of being a witness From his agony to his death.


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