Seminal author Philip Roth, whose novels explored modern Jewish-American life, has told a French magazine that he will write no more books because he has lost his passion for it.
The author of such novels as “American Pastoral”, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, and “Portnoy’s Complaint” slipped his retirement announcement into an interview last month with French magazine Les Inrocks.
Roth had hinted as much during at an appearance in 2011 at YIVO, but quickly claimed that it wasn’t true. Now, in fact, it seems that it is.
On Friday, Houghton Mifflin confirmed his decision. “He told me it was true,” said Lori Glazer, executive director of publicity at the publisher.
Roth, 79, one of the world’s most revered novelists and a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature, said he had not written for three years.
“To tell you the truth, I’m done,” Roth was quoted as telling Les Inrocks. “‘Nemesis’ will be my last book,” he said of his 2010 short novel set against a fictional polio epidemic in Newark, New Jersey, in 1944.
The novella “Goodbye, Columbus” catapulted Roth onto the American literary scene in 1959 with its satirical depiction of class and religion in American life. Published along with five other short stories, it won the National Book Award in 1960. He again received that award in 1995 for “Sabbath’s Theater.”
Roth, who has written some 25 novels, told Les Inrocks that he had always found writing difficult and that he wanted nothing more to do with reading, writing or talking about books.
He said that when he was 74, he started re-reading his favorite novels by authors Ernest Hemingway, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and others, and then re-read his own novels.
“I wanted to see whether I had wasted my time writing,” he explained. “After that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I no longer want to read, to write, I don’t even want to talk about it anymore,” he was quoted as saying.
“I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote, I read - to the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced all my life. The idea of trying to write again is impossible,” Roth told the magazine.
Roth’s four most recent novels, “Everyman,” “Indignation,” “The Humbling” and “Nemesis”, have been short works, often focusing on ageing, physical decline, depression and death.
New Jersey-born Roth is best known for his semi-autobiographical and unreliable alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman, who appeared in nine of his novels.
Roth told Les Inrocks that he had spent most of his time in recent years preparing material for his biographer, Blake Bailey. “If I had a choice, I would prefer that there is no biography written about me, but there will be biographies after my death so (I wanted) to be sure that one of them is correct,” Roth was quoted as saying.
Roth said he had asked his literary executors and his agent to destroy his personal archives after his death once Bailey has finished the biography. “I don’t want my personal papers hanging around everywhere,” he said.