Philip Roth, the American novelist responsible for such seminal works as “American Pastoral” and “Goodbye, Columbus,” died Tuesday. He was 85.
The New Yorker reported that friends close to Roth had confirmed his death.
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. He was well known for writing about the Jewish experience, as well as American ideals, personal identity, and the human body, through autobiographical fiction.
Roth was born in Newark, N.J. in 1933 to first-generation parents and grew up in the Weequahic neighborhood, which would go on to provide the setting for his famous novel “Portnoy’s Complaint.”
His career was prolific, beginning with 1959’s “Goodbye, Columbus” and spanning well into the 2000s, with “Exit Ghost” in 2007. In 2012, he announced he would be retiring from writing fiction after expressing pessimism about the future of literature and the novel.
The author was outspoken on religion, and considered himself an atheist, telling the Guardian: “I’m exactly the opposite of religious, I’m anti-religious. I find religious people hideous. I hate the religious lies. It’s all a big lie.”
Roth was married twice, first to Margaret Martinson Williams, from whom he divorced in 1963, and then to stage actress Claire Bloom. Roth and Bloom were companions for several years before marrying in 1990; they separated in 1995.
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. “American Pastoral” was directed by and stars Ewan McGregor. Producer-writer James Schamus made his directing debut with “Indignation.”