Celebrated Novelist Philip Roth Dies at 85

Philip Roth Pulitzer Prize winner and author of'Portnoy's Complaint, passes away at 85

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

But after decades as one of America's leading literary lights, the anger Roth once evoked was eclipsed by acclaim.

His debut novel-Roth would later refer to his first two novels as "apprentice work"-Letting Go was written during the years he was married to Maggie Michaelson, and was self-proclaimed to be a serious "literary" exploration of their toxic relationship".

In 1997, the novelist won a Pulitzer Prize for his book American Pastoral.

While predecessors such as Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud wrote of the Jews' painful adjustment from immigrant life, Roth's characters represented the next generation.

'The Plot Against America, ' published in 2004, imagines what would have happened had flying ace Charles Lindbergh, an isolationist who expressed anti-Semitic views, defeated Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 election and signed a peace accord with Adolf Hitler. He also was a three-time recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award. Though much of his work explored the Jewish American experience, he bristled at being categorized.

"We are a community that treasures someone who holds up such a penetrating and insightful mirror to who we are and reveals the dilemmas and contradictions and aspirations of the community", Eisen said.

The news was confirmed by Roth's agent Andrew Wylie. A short story in the collection - Defender of the Faith - was about a Jewish army officer's conflict with Jewish soldiers trying to avoid combat duty.

Philip Roth: A literary life in seven stages

"What is being done to silence this man?" an American rabbi asked in a 1963 letter to the Anti-Defamation League. "I was by this time no longer in possession of the mental vitality or the physical fitness needed to mount and sustain a large creative attack of any duration", Roth mentioned in a recent interview about his decision.

Roth taught comparative literature, mostly at the University of Pennsylvania. "Would Roth himself have imagined such a plot?"

"Every year we talked about it, it became amusing", Savigneau said, adding that great writers such as Marcel Proust and James Joyce had also missed out on the prize.

"There was nothing more for me to write about", he told the BBC in 2014.

Writing on "behaviour in extreme situations" was Roth's forte, tackling characters with "sheer playfulness and deadly seriousness", recording "life, in all its shameless impurity".

In this March 24, 1960 file photo, the three winners of the National Book Award, Robert Lowell, from left, awarded for the most distinguished book of poetry, Richard Ellmann, victor in the non-fiction category, and Philip Roth, recipient of the award in the fiction category for his book 'Goodbye, Columbus, ' pose at the Astor Hotel in New York City.

But with women often portrayed as little more than objects amid the lustful agonising of privileged heterosexual men, Roth's work was frequently labelled misogynistic.

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