Philip Roth's five most important books

Philip Roth's five most important books

Philip Roth, whose raucous, playful, elegant and often outrageous novels about Jewish life and sex and death and betrayal made him one of the country's greatest novelists, has died at age 85.

Roth died in New York City at 10:30 p.m. local time of congestive heart failure, his literary agent Andrew Wylie said. Whether or when Roth would be awarded the prize was a frequent topic of discussion (paywall) among literary enthusiasts, especially as Roth entered his 80s and had seemingly won everything else, including a Pulitzer and a Man Booker International Prize.

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 retired from writing in 2012, but by no means fell into obscurity-indeed, his seemingly prescient imaginations of American politics only gained traction with the advent of Donald Trump's administration, particularly his 2004 novel The Plot Against America, which tells the story of aviator and Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh's victory against Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential elections.

Roth's first published book was the 1959 novella and short-story collection "Goodbye, Columbus, ' which won the National Book Award".

The decorated author won most top literary honours, but the coveted Nobel Literature Prize eluded him.

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Born in Newark, New Jersey - a state that would appear often as a setting in his fiction - Roth grew up in a Jewish, middle-class family and attended Rutgers University before transferring to Bucknell University and a stint in the U.S. Army. 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. Roth was frequently identified as being a writer interested in Jewish identity, as well as lust, the American Dream and male anxiety.

Roth had a long relationship with British actress Claire Bloom but their five-year marriage ended in divorce in 1995.

Other works adapted into film include "Goodbye, Columbus", starring Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw, "Potnoy's Complaint", starring Benjamin and Karen Black, "The Human Stain" with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman, "The Dying Animal, ' adapted as "Elegy"; starring Penélope Cruz and Ben Kingsley and 'The Humbling" with Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig. "In my life I have had, in total, a couple of months of these completely wonderful days as a writer, and that is enough".

In correspondence with The New Yorker a year ago, Roth drew parallels between Trump and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who features prominently in Roth's novel The Plot Against America as an isolationist president during the 1940s. "The person is a model who then develops into somebody", he said.

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

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