Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Roth dies

23 May, 2018, 15:55 | Author: Regina Silva
  • Award-winning novelist Philip Roth dead at 85

"Over the years, the subject has undergone as many complications and elaborations as the author's body of work".

In "The Plot Against America" (2004), Roth returns to his childhood years in Newark in the 1940s, in an alternative history where pro-Nazi aviator hero Charles Lindbergh is elected United States president and negotiates an understanding with Hitler's Nazi Germany, launching an anti-Jewish American program. After receiving an M.A.in English literature from the University of Chicago, Roth published his first story in The New Yorker in 1958 and achieved his first measure of fame with the publication of his debut short story collection, Goodbye, Columbus, in 1959.

A character called "Philip Roth" appears in other books including The Plot Against America (2004), a counter-factual story set in the New Jersey of Roth's childhood in which the aviator and alleged Nazi sympathiser Charles Lindbergh, becomes U.S. president and begins a programme of forced assimilation of American Jewry modelled on 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". The first, American Pastoral (1997)-which explored the consequences of the 1960s on a New Jersey family-won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction that year.

For his conclusion, he quoted Joe Louis, the heavyweight boxing champion of the 1930s and '40s: "I did the best I could with what I had". "I need some reality, to rub two sticks of reality together to get a fire of reality". And the final, The Human Stain, won him his second PEN/Faulkner Award.

In 2011 Barack Obama presented the National Humanities Medal to Roth during a ceremony at the White House.

Roth's fiction, regularly set in his birthplace of Newark in New Jersey, is known for its intensely autobiographical character. He retired from teaching in 1992 as a distinguished professor of literature at New York's Hunter College.

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But Roth's giant stature on the post-World War II literary scene stems from the universality of his message - in his own words: "I don't write Jewish, I write American". "I no longer feel this dedication to write what I have experienced my whole life". It was also developed into a film in 2003-and starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman.

Until his abrupt retirement, Roth was a dedicated, prolific author who often published a book a year and was generous to writers from other countries.

His 2004 novel, The Plot Against America - a counterfactual history which posits famed aviator and Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh being elected president in 1940 - is widely viewed as foreshadowing the rise of Donald Trump.

Following the death of several friends, including novelist Saul Bellow in 2005, Roth wrote "Everyman", a short work of fiction about the physical decline and death of a successful advertising executive.

In a New York Times interview in 2018, Roth reflected on his 50-plus years as a writer, describing it as: "Exhilaration and groaning. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through".

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