American literary giant Philip Roth dead at 85

FITZGERALD

The celebrated and controversial author of "Portnoy's Complaint", "The Counterlife" and other novels was 85.

He died yesterday of congestive heart failure at the age of 85.

Tributes poured in Wednesday honouring the late U.S. literary giant Philip Roth, whose prolific career as a novelist, essayist and critic chronicled the American experience in the 20th century. Asked which were his favourite books, Roth mentioned two, Sabbath's Theater (1995), the story of Mickey Sabbath, who is 64 going on 17, antagonistic and libidinous, which several critics hated, and Pastoral. He was an atheist who swore allegiance to earthly imagination, whether devising pornographic functions for raw liver or indulging romantic fantasies about Anne Frank.

His career was prolific, beginning with 1959's "Goodbye, Columbus" and spanning well into the 2000s, with "Exit Ghost" in 2007.

Philip Roth I didn't know what a writer was, but I knew what books were because I would go to the Blanche library in our neighbourhood [of Newark, New Jersey], following the example of my brother, who would come home with half a dozen books.

Roth initially didn't set his sight on being an author. 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. That same year, Roth enlisted in the Army but was medically discharged after he injured his back.

The writer was born on March 19, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey. A panel moderator berated him for his comic portrayals of Jews, asking Roth if he would have written the same books in Nazi Germany. When Roth won the Man Booker International Prize, in 2011, a judge resigned, alleging that the author suffered from terminal solipsism and went "on and on and on about the same subject in nearly every single book".

Roth found fame with the wildly graphic "Portnoy's Complaint" in 1969 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for "American Pastoral".




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

Philip announced in 2012 that Nemesis would be his last novel.

In 1990, Roth married actress Claire Bloom after seven years of dating. "If I'm not an American, I'm nothing", said Roth.

"I did not want to, did not intend to, and was not able to speak for American Jews; I surely did not deny, and no one questioned the fact, that I spoke to them, and I hope to others as well", Roth wrote in his essay "Writing About Jews". "I no longer feel this dedication to write what I have experienced my whole life".

Eight of Roth's novels have been adapted into movies, including the 2016 drama "Indignation" starring Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon, and "American Pastoral" starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, Dakota Fanning and Uzo Aduba. One of his recurring protagonists, Nathan Zuckerman, is a novelist whose own writings have similarly upset many Jews.

Roth's personal life was just as colorful as his professional one.

He first Wednesday Margaret Martinson Williams in 1959 but the couple divorced four years later. "The person is a model who then develops into somebody", he said.

The separated in 1963, but Williams reportedly refused to sign the divorce papers. He was eighty-five years old.

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