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Philip Roth

Philip Roth

American writer Philip Roth (b. 1933) is perhaps best known for his infamous novel Portnoy's Complaint. Many of his stories chronicle American and Jewish life in New Jersey and frequently feature the character Nathan Zuckerman. Roth is one of the most critically acclaimed authors of the modern era, receiving:

  • Two National Book Awards
  • Two National Book Critics Circle awards
  • Three PEN/Faulkner Awards
  • The Pulitzer Prize, awarded for his 1997 novel American Pastoral

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Roth's Early Work

Roth grew up in Newark, New Jersey, the setting of many of his works. His first novel, Goodbye, Columbus, was published in 1959 and received a National Book Award. 1969's Portnoy's Complaint, with its graphic and humorous sexual themes is one of his more enduring works. Much of Roth's work is semi-autobiographical, and many have seen his Nathan Zuckerman character as his alter ego.

Much of Roth's later works have explored the post-World War II America and the retreat from some high point of America that was achieved in the 1940s. Roth's seeming angry with modern America and his frustration with political developments is a theme throughout many of his recent works. Modern life is contrasted with the near-idyllic childhood of Nathan Zuckerman.

Roth's Pessimism

In 2012, Roth announced that he was retiring from fiction writing, after having expressed pessimism regarding the future of the novel as an art form in several magazine interviews.


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