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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When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh publicly blamed the Jews for pushing America towards a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but, upon taking office as the 33rd president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial 'understanding' with Adolf Hitler.

What then followed in America is the historical setting for this startling novel by Pulitzer-prize winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst.

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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.

He continued to write well into his later years, producing novels including his popular 2004 alternative-history novel The Plot Against America as well as meditations on old age and illness such as The Dying Animal, Everyman (which was awarded the Pen/William Faulkner award in 2007) and Exit Ghost. His last book was Nemesis, published in 2010, saying of his decision to stop writing in an interview with the New York Times, ‘every talent has its terms — its nature, its scope, its force; also its term, a tenure, a life span... Not everyone can be fruitful forever.’