|Birth Day:||February 8, 1906|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
His childhood in the Brooklyn and Harlem neighborhoods of New York City inspired his famous novel, Call It Sleep.
Roth was born in Tysmenitz near Stanislawow, Galicia, Austro-Hungary (now known as Tysmenytsia, near Ivano-Frankivsk, Galicia, Ukraine). Although his parents never agreed on the exact date of his arrival in the United States, it is most likely that he landed at Ellis Island and began his life in New York in 1908. He briefly lived in Brooklyn, and then on the Lower East Side, in the slums where his classic novel Call It Sleep is set. In 1914, the family moved to Harlem. Roth lived there until 1927, when, as a senior at City College of New York, he moved in with Eda Lou Walton, a poet and New York University instructor who lived on Morton Street in Greenwich Village. With Walton's support, he began Call It Sleep in about 1930, and completed the novel in the spring of 1934, publishing in December 1934, to mixed reviews. In the 1960s, Roth's Call It Sleep underwent a critical reappraisal after being republished in 1964. With 1,000,000 copies sold, and many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, the novel was hailed as an overlooked Depression-era masterpiece and classic novel of immigration. Today, it is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Jewish American literature.
Mercy of a Rude Stream is a monumental epic published in four volumes. It follows protagonist Ira Stigman from his family's arrival in Jewish-Irish Harlem in 1914 to the night before Thanksgiving in 1927, when Ira decides to leave the family tenement and move in with Edith Welles. According to critic David Mehegan, Roth's Mercy represents a "landmark of the American literary century".
Published in 1934, Call It Sleep centers on the turbulent experiences of a young boy, David Schearl, growing up in the Jewish immigrant slum of New York's Lower East Side in the early twentieth century.
After the book's publication, Roth began a second novel that was contracted with editor Maxwell Perkins, of Scribner's. But Roth's growing ideological frustration and personal confusion created a profound writer's block, which lasted until 1979, when he began the earliest drafts of Mercy of a Rude Stream (although material written much earlier than 1979 was also incorporated into this later work). In 1938, during an unproductive sojourn at the artists' colony Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York, Roth met Muriel Parker, a pianist and composer; much of this period is depicted in Roth's final work, An American Type. Roth severed his relationship with Walton, moved out of her apartment, and married Parker in 1939, to the disapproval of her family. With the onset of World War II, Roth became a tool and gauge maker. The couple moved first to Boston with their two young sons, Jeremy and Hugh, and then in 1946 to Maine. There Roth worked as a woodsman, a schoolteacher, a psychiatric attendant in the state mental hospital, a waterfowl farmer, and a Latin and math tutor.
Both a love story and a lamentation, the novel opens in 1938, and reintroduces us to Ira Stigman of the Mercy cycle, a thirty-two-year-old "slum-born Yiddle" eager to assimilate but traumatized by his impoverished immigrant past. Restless with his lover and literary mentor, English professor Edith Welles, Ira journeys to Yaddo, where he meets M (who only appeared in the old man's reveries in the Mercy series), a blond, aristocratic pianist whose "calm, Anglo-Saxon radiance" engages him.
Arthur Hertzberg credited editor Harold U. Ribalow with "rediscovering" Roth. Ribelow found him on a farm in Maine and persuaded him to permit a new edition of the novel. Ribalow wrote an introduction to the new edition, which was published by Pageant Books in 1960. Many years later, after Ribalow had died and Roth was awarded the Ribalow Prize, he wrote to Ribalow's son, Meir Z. Ribalow, "Thanks for the encomia. Things like that keep me alive, I'm sure: what little is left me capable of feeling swells with pride like the staves of an old barrel when filled. Harold, to whom I owe so much, would have been happy to witness the occasion."
In fact, Roth did not initially welcome the success of the 1964 reprint of Call It Sleep, valuing his privacy instead. However, his writing block slowly began to break. In 1968, after Muriel's retirement from the Maine state school system, the couple moved to a trailer home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, near where Roth had stayed as writer-in-residence at the D. H. Lawrence ranch outside of Taos. Muriel began composing music again, while Roth collaborated with his friend and Italian translator, Mario Materassi, to put out a collection of essays called Shifting Landscape, published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1987. After Muriel's death in 1990, Roth moved into a ramshackle former funeral parlor and occupied himself with revising the final volumes of his monumental work, Mercy of a Rude Stream. It has been alleged that the incestuous relationships between the protagonist, a sister, and a cousin in Mercy of a Rude Stream are based on Roth's life. Roth's own sister denied that such events occurred.
The first volume, A Star Shines over Mt. Morris Park was published in 1994 by St. Martin's Press and the second volume, called A Diving Rock on the Hudson, appeared from St. Martin's in 1995. From Bondage, which appeared in hardcover in 1996, was the first volume of the four Mercy books to appear posthumously. Requiem for Harlem, the fourth and final volume, appeared in 1998. Roth was able to revise both the third and fourth volumes in 1994 and 1995 with the help of his assistant, Felicia Steele, shortly before his death.
Roth failed to garner the acclaim some say he deserves, perhaps because after the publication of Call It Sleep he failed to produce another novel for sixty years. Roth attributed his massive writer's block to personal problems such as depression, and to political conflicts, including his disillusion with Communism. At other times he cited his early break with Judaism and his obsessive sexual preoccupations as probable causes. Roth died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States in 1995.
While still alive, Roth received two honorary doctorates, one from the University of New Mexico and one from the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. Posthumously, he was honored in 1995 with the Hadassah Harold Ribalow Lifetime Achievement Award and by the Museum of the City of New York with Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger having named February 29, 1996, as "Henry Roth Day" in New York City. From Bondage was cited by the National Book Critics Circle as being a finalist for its Fiction Prize in 1997, and it was in that same year that Henry Roth won the first Isaac Bashevis Singer Prize in Literature for From Bondage, an award put out by The Forward Foundation. In 2005, ten years after Roth's death, the first full biography of his life, the prize-winning Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth, by literary scholar Steven G. Kellman, was published, followed in 2006 by Henry Roth's centenary, which was marked by a literary tribute at the New York Public Library, sponsored by CCNY and organized by Lawrence I. Fox, Roth's literary executor.
Roth's final novel, An American Type, emerged from "Batch 2," which Roth wrote during the late 1980s and early 1990s. With his assistant's help, Roth produced 1,900 typed pages of scenes beginning where Mercy left off and continuing through 1990. The manuscript of "Batch 2" remained untouched for over a decade until Weil sent it to The New Yorker, which published two excerpts from "Batch 2" in the summer of 2006 under the titles "God the Novelist" and "Freight." At The New Yorker the book came into the hands of Willing Davidson, then a young assistant in the magazine's fiction department. At the suggestion of Weil and Roth's literary executor, Lawrence Fox, Davidson edited "Batch 2" into An American Type, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2010.
Sixty-five pages of excerpts from Batch Two consisting of short journal entries appeared in the journal, Fiction, Number 57, in 2011. The majority of these pages are about Roth's move to Maine, afraid that his associations with the Communist Party would haunt him at his factory job in Massachusetts. Purchasing a small farm, and surrounded by Yankee neighbors, Roth questions his identity as a Jew and struggles to wrest a living out of a Maine countryside where the soil is so hard that he has to dynamite in order to lay pipe deep enough to avoid the winter freezes. The extreme cold that he and his family endured, his work logging, bargaining over antiques and livestock with neighbors, and the world of backwoods and village America form the principal and unlikely drama of these pages. There is also return to the tense, incestuous world of the Roth family in Henry's childhood in the last of these extracts.
Henry married Muriel Parker in 1939.
Currently, Henry Roth is 116 years, 6 months and 7 days old. Henry Roth will celebrate 117th birthday on a Wednesday 8th of February 2023. Below we countdown to Henry Roth upcoming birthday.