|Birth Day:||March 19, 1933|
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Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author known for works such as Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy's Complaint, American Pastoral, and The Human Stain. In 2001, he became the first ever recipient of the Franz Kafka Prize.
He graduated from Bucknell University and subsequently earned a Master's degree in English literature from the University of Chicago. He published his debut novella, Goodbye, Columbus, in 1959.
Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 19, 1933, and grew up at 81 Summit Avenue in the Weequahic neighborhood. He was the second child of Bess (née Finkel) and Herman Roth, an insurance broker. Roth's family was Jewish, and his parents were second-generation Americans. Roth's father's parents came from Kozlov near Lviv (then Lemberg) in Austrian Galicia; his mother's ancestors were from the region of Kyiv in Ukraine. He graduated from Newark's Weequahic High School in or around 1950. In 1969 Arnold H. Lubasch wrote in The New York Times, "It has provided the focus for the fiction of Philip Roth, the novelist who evokes his era at Weequahic High School in the highly acclaimed Portnoy's Complaint. ... Besides identifying Weequahic High School by name, the novel specifies such sites as the Empire Burlesque, the Weequahic Diner, the Newark Museum and Irvington Park, all local landmarks that helped shape the youth of the real Roth and the fictional Portnoy, both graduates of Weequahic class of '50." The 1950 Weequahic Yearbook calls Roth a "boy of real intelligence, combined with wit and common sense." He was known as a comedian during his time at school.
Sabbath's Theater (1995) may have Roth's most lecherous protagonist, Mickey Sabbath, a disgraced former puppeteer; it won his second National Book Award. In complete contrast, American Pastoral (1997), the first volume of his so-called second Zuckerman trilogy, focuses on the life of virtuous Newark star athlete Swede Levov, and the tragedy that befalls him when Levov's teenage daughter becomes a domestic terrorist during the late 1960s; it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I Married a Communist (1998) focuses on the McCarthy era. The Human Stain examines identity politics in 1990s America. The Dying Animal (2001) is a short novel about eros and death that revisits literary professor David Kepesh, protagonist of two 1970s works, The Breast and The Professor of Desire. In The Plot Against America (2004), Roth imagines an alternative American history in which Charles Lindbergh, aviator hero and isolationist, is elected U.S. President in 1940, and the U.S. negotiates an understanding with Hitler's Nazi Germany and embarks on its own program of anti-Semitism.
Roth attended Rutgers University in Newark for a year, then transferred to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, where he earned a B.A. magna cum laude in English and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received a scholarship to attend the University of Chicago, where he earned an M.A. in English literature in 1955 and briefly worked as an instructor in the university's writing program.
That same year, rather than wait to be drafted, Roth enlisted in the army, but he suffered a back injury during basic training and was given a medical discharge. He returned to Chicago in 1956 to study for a PhD in literature but dropped out after one term. Roth taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and Princeton University. He later continued his academic career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught comparative literature before retiring from teaching in 1991.
While at Chicago, Roth met Margaret Martinson in 1956, who became his first wife in 1959. Their separation in 1963, and Martinson's subsequent death in a car crash in 1968, left a lasting mark on Roth's literary output. Martinson was the inspiration for female characters in several of Roth's novels, including Lucy Nelson in When She Was Good and Maureen Tarnopol in My Life as a Man.
Roth's work first appeared in print in the Chicago Review while he was studying, and later teaching, at the University of Chicago. His first book, Goodbye, Columbus, contains the novella Goodbye, Columbus and four short stories. It won the National Book Award in 1960. He published his first full-length novel, Letting Go, in 1962. In 1967 he published When She Was Good, set in the WASP Midwest in the 1940s. It is based in part on the life of Margaret Martinson Williams, whom Roth married in 1959. The publication in 1969 of his fourth and most controversial novel, Portnoy's Complaint, gave Roth widespread commercial and critical success, causing his profile to rise significantly. During the 1970s Roth experimented in various modes, from the political satire Our Gang to the Kafkaesque The Breast. By the end of the decade Roth had created his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman. In a series of highly self-referential novels and novellas that followed between 1979 and 1986, Zuckerman appeared as either the main character or an interlocutor.
Roth's first work, Goodbye, Columbus, was an irreverently humorous depiction of the life of middle-class Jewish Americans, and met controversy among reviewers, who were highly polarized in their judgments; one criticized it as infused with a sense of self-loathing. In response, Roth, in his 1963 essay "Writing About Jews" (collected in Reading Myself and Others), maintained that he wanted to explore the conflict between the call to Jewish solidarity and his desire to be free to question the values and morals of middle-class Jewish Americans uncertain of their identities in an era of cultural assimilation and upward social mobility:
Eight of Roth's novels and short stories have been adapted as films: Goodbye, Columbus; Portnoy's Complaint; The Human Stain; The Dying Animal, adapted as Elegy; The Humbling; Indignation; and American Pastoral. In addition, The Ghost Writer was adapted for television in 1984. In 2014 filmmaker Alex Ross Perry made Listen Up Philip, which was influenced by Roth's work.
In 1990 Roth married his longtime companion, English actress Claire Bloom, with whom he had been living since 1976. In 1994 they divorced, and in 1996 Bloom published a memoir, Leaving a Doll's House, that depicted Roth as a misogynist and control freak. Some critics have detected parallels between Bloom and the character Eve Frame in Roth's I Married a Communist (1998).
Roth was buried at the Bard College Cemetery in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where in 1999 he taught a class. He had originally planned to be buried next to his parents at the Gomel Chesed Cemetery in Newark, but changed his mind about fifteen years before his death, in order to be buried close to his friend the novelist Norman Manea. Roth expressly banned any religious rituals from his funeral service, though it was noted that only one day after his burial a pebble had been placed on top of his tombstone in accordance with Jewish tradition.
This was not the first time Roth had expressed pessimism about the future of the novel and its significance in recent years. Talking to the Observer's Robert McCrum in 2001, he said, "I'm not good at finding 'encouraging' features in American culture. I doubt that aesthetic literacy has much of a future here." In an October 2012 interview with the French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Roth announced that he would be retiring from writing and confirmed subsequently in Le Monde that he would no longer publish fiction. In a May 2014 interview with Alan Yentob for the BBC, Roth said, "this is my last appearance on television, my absolutely last appearance on any stage anywhere."
Two of Roth's works won the National Book Award for Fiction; four others were finalists. Two won National Book Critics Circle awards; another five were finalists. He also won three PEN/Faulkner Awards (for Operation Shylock, The Human Stain, and Everyman) and a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel American Pastoral. In 2001 The Human Stain was awarded the United Kingdom's WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year. In 2002 Roth was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2003 literary critic Harold Bloom named him one of the four major American novelists still at work, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Cormac McCarthy. The Plot Against America (2004) won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 2005 as well as the Society of American Historians' James Fenimore Cooper Prize. Roth was also awarded the United Kingdom's WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year, an award he received twice. He was honored in his hometown in October 2005 when then-mayor Sharpe James presided over the unveiling of a street sign in Roth's name on the corner of Summit and Keer Avenues where Roth lived for much of his childhood, a setting prominent in The Plot Against America. A plaque on the house where the Roths lived was also unveiled. In May 2006 he received the PEN/Nabokov Award, and in 2007 he was awarded the PEN/Faulkner award for Everyman, making him the award's only three-time winner. In April 2007 he was chosen as the recipient of the first PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.
Roth was awarded the 42nd Edward MacDowell Medal by the MacDowell Colony in 2001.
Although Roth's writings often explored the Jewish experience in America, Roth rejected being labeled a Jewish-American writer. "It's not a question that interests me. I know exactly what it means to be Jewish and it's really not interesting," he told the Guardian newspaper in 2005. "I'm an American."
Roth's novel Everyman, a meditation on illness, aging, desire, and death, was published in May 2006. It was Roth's third book to win the PEN/Faulkner Award, making him the only person so honored. Exit Ghost, which again features Nathan Zuckerman, was released in October 2007. It was the last Zuckerman novel. Indignation, Roth's 29th book, was published on September 16, 2008. Set in 1951, during the Korean War, it follows Marcus Messner's departure from Newark to Ohio's Winesburg College, where he begins his sophomore year. In 2009, Roth's 30th book, The Humbling, was published. It tells the story of the last performances of Simon Axler, a celebrated stage actor. Roth's 31st book, Nemesis, was published on October 5, 2010. According to the book's notes, Nemesis is the last in a series of four "short novels," after Everyman, Indignation and The Humbling. In October 2009, during an interview with Tina Brown of The Daily Beast to promote The Humbling, Roth considered the future of literature and its place in society, stating his belief that within 25 years the reading of novels will be regarded as a "cultic" activity:
The May 21, 2006 issue of The New York Times Book Review announced the results of a letter that was sent to what the publication described as "a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify 'the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.'" Six of Roth's novels were among the 22 selected: American Pastoral, The Counterlife, Operation Shylock, Sabbath's Theater, The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America. The accompanying essay, written by critic A.O. Scott, stated, "If we had asked for the single best writer of fiction of the past 25 years, [Roth] would have won." In 2009 he was awarded the Welt-Literaturpreis of the German newspaper Die Welt.
Roth was awarded the 2010 National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House on March 2, 2011.
In May 2011 Roth was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction on the world stage, the fourth winner of the biennial prize. One of the judges, Carmen Callil, a publisher of the feminist Virago house, withdrew in protest, referring to Roth's work as "Emperor's clothes". She said "he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe ... I don't rate him as a writer at all ...". Observers noted that Callil had a conflict of interest, having published a book by Claire Bloom (Roth's ex-wife) that criticized Roth and lambasted their marriage. In response, one of the two other Booker judges, Rick Gekoski, remarked:
In 2012 Roth received the Prince of Asturias Award for literature. On March 19, 2013, his 80th birthday was celebrated in public ceremonies at the Newark Museum.
Roth died at a Manhattan hospital of heart failure on May 22, 2018, at the age of 85.
Philip had two brief marriages. Philip's first, to Margaret Martinson Williams, lasted from 1959-1963; his second, to Claire Bloom, spanned the first four years of the 1990s.
Currently, Philip Roth is 90 years, 0 months and 1 days old. Philip Roth will celebrate 91st birthday on a Tuesday 19th of March 2024. Below we countdown to Philip Roth upcoming birthday.