Philip Roth's five most important books

Philip Roth's five most important books

Tributes have been paid to Philip Roth, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author who has died at the age of 85.

Being snubbed for the Nobel every year had "become a joke" for the author, said his friend, French writer Josyane Savigneau.

He also won the Man Booker International Prize and the National Book Award for his work, which drew inspiration from the Jewish experience, American ideals and sex in America.

A prolific essayist and critic, Roth was best known for mining the Jewish-American experience in his work.

Two novels followed, but it was the third - "Portnoy's Complaint" - that brought fame with its comic description of the sexual problems facing a young middle-class Jewish New Yorker burdened with a domineering and possessive mother.

Roth was born March 19, 1933 in Newark, and was raised in the city's Weequahic neighborhood, wedged between Routes 78 and 22.

During a particularly fruitful period in his 60s, Roth returned to a number of those themes.

Eight of Roth's novels have been adapted into films, including "Goodbye, Columbus" with Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw; "Portnoy's Complaint"; "The Human Stain" with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman; "The Dying Animal", adapted as "Elegy"; "The Humbling" with Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig; and "Indignation" and "American Pastoral" both in 2016.

In a moment, William Brangham talks with a colleague and collaborator of Roth's.

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While Roth's work first appeared in print in the Chicago Review, his first published book-the 1959 novella and short-story collection Goodbye, Columbus-was the result of a Houghton Mifflin Fellowship.

Here are some excerpts. In 2012, Roth announced his retirement from writing. In a rare interview with the New York Times, published in January 2018, Roth had some scathing remarks about the current POTUS.

"I decided that I was done with fiction", he said.

Told through the eyes of a Jewish family living in Newark, where Roth himself grew up, the novel paints a picture of an America that gives in to its extremist and anti-Semitic vices, with Jews deported to the Midwest and fleeing to Canada.

Barack Obama presents the National Humanities Medal to Roth during a ceremony at the White House in 2011.

Throughout his career, Roth won two National Book Awards in addition to the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1997 book "American Pastoral", which featured his recurring alter ego Nathan Zuckerman.

"The death of Philip Roth marks, in its way, the end of a cultural era as definitively as the death of Pablo Picasso did in 1973", he wrote. Named as "the most un-Rothian" of his books by Charles McGrath at The New York Times, it reads as a "Theodore Dreiser- or Sherwood Anderson-like story set in the WASP Midwest in the 1940s".

Roth was the author of more than thirty books. Bellow, a fellow North American Jew, and Roth in particular had a close friendship, recorded in letters written over the course of decades.

"You have to be able to compress and condense", said Mr. Roth. It's enough. I no longer feel this dedication to write what I have experienced my whole life'.

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