Philip Roth

A giant of twentieth-century American literature, Philip Roth is best known for his acerbic, darkly comedic writing which tackles weighty ideas about American society, masculinity and Jewish identity. Through his career he won almost every American literary prize including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize.

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From the Pulitzer-winning author of American Pastoral, this intensely dark and magnetic novel charts an alternate history of 1940s America, following the political rise of a famous aviation hero with xenophobic sympathies through the eyes of a working-class Jewish family. A stark dissection of the dangers of blind obedience, Roth’s novel is an indisputable and deeply humane masterpiece of political fiction.

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Philip Roth Biography

Born in New Jersey, the son of second-generation Jewish Americans, Roth first came to public attention with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus but it was his 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint which made his name. Focusing on sex-obsessed Alexander Portnoy’s confessions to his psychiatrist, the book caused a national scandal - the New Yorker called it ‘one of the dirtiest books ever published’ - and catapulted Roth to international success.

The middle of his career was marked by his acclaimed sequence of novels following the career of the writer Nathan Zuckerman. Featuring in nine of Roth's novels, Zuckerman first appeared as a character in My Life as a Man, and was the central character in an early sequence collectively known as Zuckerman Bound: The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson and The Prague Orgy. After a lull in popularity, his career had a late second flowering in the 1990’s when Roth was in his seventies with his politically engaged historical sequence known as his ‘American trilogy’: American Pastoral, The Human Stain and I Married a Communist. Both widely lauded and controversial, the series won numerous accolades, with American Pastoral winning the Pulitzer Prize. The book was later included in TIME's List of the 100 Best Novels.

Roth continued to write well into his later years, producing novels including his popular 2004 alternate history novel The Plot Against America, which was adapted as a major television drama by Sky Atlantic in 2020, starring Winona Ryder.