Remembering Philip Roth, prolific American writer and 'ruthlessly honest observer'

Posted May 26, 2018

Prolific novelist Philip Roth, a dominant force in American literature throughout the latter half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 85. But for Roth the American experience and the Jewish experience were often the same. He won numerous awards, and was often talked about as a contender for the Nobel prize.

Fans have taken to social media to pay tribute to the respected novelist, and many have posted images of their Philip Roth collections. The character of Nathan Zuckerman is lauded as one of the most memorable characters from his books.

"Every year we talked about it, it became amusing", Savigneau said, adding that great writers such as Marcel Proust and James Joyce had also missed out on the prize.

Barack Obama presents the National Humanities Medal to Roth during a ceremony at the White House in 2011
Barack Obama presents the National Humanities Medal to Roth during a ceremony at the White House in 2011

Roth's novel American Pastoral is widely considered to be his masterpiece, winning him the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.

Roth retired from writing in 2012, but by no means fell into obscurity-indeed, his seemingly prescient imaginations of American politics only gained traction with the advent of Donald Trump's administration, particularly his 2004 novel The Plot Against America, which tells the story of aviator and Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh's victory against Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential elections.

Usually set in his birthplace New Jersey, Philip Roth's fiction was known for its autobiographical nature. "He was unrivaled, particularly in the period between 'The Counterlife, ' and 'The Dying Animal.' It's one of the great literary streaks, where every book is first rate". 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.

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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. 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.

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".

Claire Bloom was his second wife, with the pair exchanging vows in 1990 and separating in 1995. "You should let people fight with the books on their own and rediscover what they are and what they are not".

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But in 2017, Roth said Lindbergh's character and Trump were not similar. A memorial is being planned in NY, possibly in September, his biographer Blake Bailey said. "In my life I have had, in total, a couple of months of these completely wonderful days as a writer, and that is enough".

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