Philip Roth: A literary life in seven stages

His death was confirmed by his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, who said Roth died Tuesday night of congestive heart failure in a New York City hospital.

The decorated author won most top literary honours, but the coveted Nobel Literature Prize eluded him.

In his later years, Roth turned to the existential and sexual crises of middle age, never abandoning his commitment to exploring shame, embarrassment and other guilty secrets of the self, although usually with a heavy dose of humor.

One of his recurring protagonists, Nathan Zuckerman, is a novelist whose own writings have similarly upset many Jews. "That epit makes no sense to me", he said. To evaluate his work, he quoted this phrase he said towards end of his life boxer Joe Louis: "I did best I could with what I had".

Novelist Philip Roth was presented with the National Humanities Medal in 2011.


In 2017, he published 'Why Write?,' a collection of essays and non-fiction works written between 1960 and 2013. But for Roth the American experience and the Jewish experience were often the same. The book featured several notorious masturbation scenes and a narrator who declared he wanted to "put the id back in yid".

"Goodbye, Columbus" (1969) RottenTomatoes: 100 percent; IMDb: 6.6 Roth's breakout 1959 book was also the first to win favor in Hollywood, with Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw playing a young couple in a doomed romance despite their shared Jewish upbringing.

His biographer, Blake Bailey, said the author died surrounded by "lifelong friends who loved him dearly", adding he was "a darling man and our greatest living writer".

"If the Western world views itself through the lens of the modern Jewish experience, it is in large measure due to the novels, novellas and short stories of Philip Roth", wrote David Roskies, a JTS Jewish literature professor, in a note to the class of 2014.

"It's not a question that interests me".


Reportedly infuriated, Roth exacted revenge by caricaturing Bloom as a poisonous character in "I Married a Communist". Whether or when Roth would be awarded the prize was a frequent topic of discussion (paywall) among literary enthusiasts, especially as Roth entered his 80s and had seemingly won everything else, including a Pulitzer and a Man Booker International Prize.

"His imagination has not only recast our idea of Jewish identity, it has also reanimated fiction, and not just American fiction, generally", the chair of the judges of the prize announced at the time.

Philip Milton Roth was born on March 19, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, the grandson of European Jews who were part of the 19th-century wave of immigration to the United States.

Roth received a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago.

The New York Times, which had an interview with Roth earlier this year, will remember the author as "a passionate student of American history and the American vernacular". 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 2016, Roth bequeathed his entire personal collection of over 3,500 books to the Newark Public Library, which he called "my first other home" and where he spent time reading and writing while he was growing up.

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