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Literary giant Philip Roth dead at 85

WION Web Team
USAUpdated: May 23, 2018, 10:03 AM IST

Philip Roth Photograph:(Others)

Literary giant who dealt with self-perception, sexual freedom, own Jewish identity -- Philip Roth -- died aged 85. 

Author of more than 30 novels and short stories, Roth was one of America’s preeminent 20th-century novelist. In his career of seven decades, his work broke boundaries of fiction and memoir and often left readers intrigued -- especially with his portrayal of Jewish American life in stories drawn from his boyhood in the predominantly Jewish Weequahic neighbourhood of Newark, NJ. 

In addition to his novels, Roth spent 15 years editing the "Writers from the Other Europe" series of books for Penguin and also conducted a series of interviews with fellow writers such as Primo Levi, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Edna O'Brien that was published in 2001 as "Shop Talk". He was an active member of PEN, the international organization supporting writers and fighting censorship.

He started writing while he was studying at the University of Chicago, and he published his first short story, "The Day It Snowed”. He started progress on his doctorate but quit weeks after he had started to focus all attention on becoming a writer instead. 

Roth came to national focus when his first book "Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories," came out in 1959. It also got him the first of his two National Book Awards. The novel explored the cultural divide between working-class Neil Klugman and the beautiful Brenda Patemkin, whose upper-middle-class life of privilege Roth lambasted -- bringing to a conclusion that he was a self-hating Jew. 

He was born as Philip Milton Roth on March 18, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression that forced his father's Newark shoe store into bankruptcy. At the peak of his career, Roth married the British actress Claire Bloom, his longtime companion, in 1990, but the couple divorced five years later. 

In his work, Roth was America's most-decorated author. The only major award that eluded him was the Nobel Prize. He twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and he was a finalist two other times for both awards. Roth also won three annual PEN/Faulkner Awards for specific works, the biennial PEN/Nabokov Award for a body of work, and, in 2007, the inaugural PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. He also won the Man Booker International Prize in 2011.