Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Entertaiment | By Kelly Sanders

Tributes Pour In For Literary Giant Philip Roth

Tributes Pour In For Literary Giant Philip Roth

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.

Roth wrote more than 30 books, including the 1991 memoir 'Patrimony,' which examined his complex relationship with his father and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Though much of his work explored the Jewish American experience, he bristled at being categorized.

Many Jewish leaders in the 1950s and 1960s found it hard to embrace Roth, who had emerged from his cherished Jewish Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey to wide acclaim with his first novella and short story collection, Goodbye, Columbus.

During a particularly fruitful period in his 60s, Roth returned to a number of those themes. "If I am not an American, I am nothing", or, as he summarized on anor occasion rejecting Community dimension and highlighting his objective of universality: "I do not write Jew, I write American".

In a moment, William Brangham talks with a colleague and collaborator of Roth's.

Here are some excerpts.

The book topped The New York Times best-seller list for the year and turned its reclusive author into a celebrity - an uncomfortable position that he would later satirise in novels such as "Zuckerman Unbound" (1981) and "Operation Shylock" (1993). "That epit makes no sense to me", he said.

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Roth, however, often demurred when it was suggested that he should be defined as an American Jewish writer. "As for how Trump threatens us, I would say that, like the anxious and fear-ridden families in my book, what is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe", he said.

Roth became the first novelist to win three PEN/Faulkner awards after the publication of Everyman in 2006, and in 2011 he won the Man Booker International Prize after the publication of his 2010 novel Nemesis.

Author Philip Roth poses in New York, Sept. 15, 2010.

"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. In 2005, he became only the third living writer to have his books enshrined at the Library of America, he added. Nine of his novels featured his fictional alter-ego, Nathan Zuckerman (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, Exit Ghost), exploring nearly every facet of his identity, from being Jewish to being a writer and a man. Bellow, a fellow North American Jew, and Roth in particular had a close friendship, recorded in letters written over the course of decades.

Throughout his career, Roth won two National Book Awards in addition to the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1997 book "American Pastoral", which featured his recurring alter ego Nathan Zuckerman.

The topics Roth wrote about included the Jewish experience in America, promiscuous male sexuality, and the hypocrisy and disillusionment of American political life since the 1940s.

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