Philip Roth passed away at age 85

by |May 23, 2018

philip roth

Philip Roth, the Pulitzer Prize winning American author, has died overnight at aged 85. His fans championed him as one of the greatest American novelists of the late 20th century due to many of his powerful and controversial books over the years. Roth made his first splash into the public eye with his portrayal of American Jewish life in his 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, winning him the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.

Being a Jewish man himself, many of Roth’s novels focused on the exploration of Jewish and American identity, but it was his novel Portnoy’s Complaint that scandalised America, described as being a humorous, filthy and unhinged story of a neurotic young Jewish man.

“All that we don’t know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.” – Philip Roth

Credit: Elliott Erwitt / Magnum

Dubbed a literary icon, Roth’s novel American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1998. He wrote more than 30 novels, often drawing on his own life experiences, around the topics of sex, death, art, weakness, our imperfections and – most notably – what it was like to be Jewish in America.

Roth may have officially retired from writing in 2012 but – expectantly – he did not slow down. He wrote a very passionate letter to Wikipedia, for instance, challenging their portrayal of him, in which it was claimed that he was not a credible witness to his own life. Unsurprisingly, they completely rewrote Roth’s entry.

In his 2010 collection Why Write?, Roth explained that he had “a strong suspicion that I’d done my best work and anything more would be inferior… not everyone can be fruitful forever.”

The internet has exploded with mourners expressing their love and appreciation for the late literary-giant:

“Right now it is astonishing to find myself still here at the end of each day. Getting into bed at night I smile and think, “I lived another day.”” – Philip Roth (New York Times interview)

While some of his works caused him to be accused of being a “self-hating Jew”, Roth’s wit, intelligence and incredible works won over many fans who today mourn his passing.

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About the Contributor

Bronwyn Eley is new to the book industry, having previously served in the Royal Australian Air Force & even spent some time as a barista until entering the exciting world of Booktopia. Books are her true passion. Bronwyn writes in her spare time, often has her face buried in a book and enjoys keeping fit (which she undoes by eating loads of chocolate) with Martial Arts and personal training. She can't answer what her favourite book is but she has a soft spot for The Host (Stephanie Meyer), Peter Pan (J.M Barrie) & Outlander (Diana Gabaldon). Fantasy, sci-fi and YA make up the majority of her bookshelves.


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