Philip Roth made a name for himself with novels like "The Plot Against America," "The Human Stain" and "Portnoy's Complaint," but decided to end it all by retiring from writing in 2012. On Monday he turns 85.
He doesn't miss writing much, Philip Roth recently told The New York Times in an extensive interview. His 2012 announcement, that he planed to retire from the field that had made him famous, shocked the literary world.
To mark the occasion, Roth taped a Post-it note to his computer with the phrase: "The struggle with writing is over." In an interview at the time, he described it as a personal affirmation. "I look at that note every morning, and it gives me such strength," he told the NYT.
It has been six years since Roth, who turns 85 on March 19, officially left writing behind. And he regrets nothing. "That's because the conditions that prompted me to stop writing fiction…haven't changed," he told the NYT. At the time, Roth realized his most creative years were over. "I was by this time no longer in possession of the mental vitality or the verbal energy or the physical fitness needed to mount and sustain a large creative attack on any duration on a complex structure as demanding as a novel…Every talent has its terms — its nature, its scope, its force; also its term, a tenure, a life span."
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Roth lives in New York's trendy Upper West Side, but still spends some of his time at a summer home in Connecticut. After retiring from writing, he now has more time for other things, especially for reading — mainly nonfiction. He also enjoys meeting with friends, attending concerts and going to the movies. But he still has time for literary pursuits, working on a novella with the young daughter of a former girlfriend and writing notes for a biography with US author Blake Bailey.
David Simon, creator of acclaimed TV series "The Wire," is adapting Roth's prize-winning 2004 novel "The Plot Against America" into a six-part miniseries. The book is set in an alternate universe in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh, leading to a treaty with Nazi Germany and rising anti-Semitism in the US.
Roth keeps abreast of current political developments. In the NYT, he admits he never thought a politician like Donald Trump could be elected in the US. "No one I know of has foreseen an America like the one we live in today," he said. "[Almost] no one … could have imagined that the 21st-century catastrophe to befall the US, the most debasing of disasters, would appear not, say, in the terrifying guise of an Orwellian Big Brother but in the ominously ridiculous commedia dell'arte figure of the boastful buffoon."
The German version of "Nemesis"
Prolific and creative
The much acclaimed author, that many critics thought might one day win the Nobel Prize for literature, was born in 1933 in the working class Newark district of Weequahic into a family of Jewish immigrants.
Roth has written almost three dozen books in the course of his career; some are full of humor and sarcasm, while others are rather melancholic.
Many of his novels are set in Newark at the time of his youth. Among his best-sellers are the Zuckerman Bound trilogy, which consists of "The Ghost Writer", "Zuckerman Unbound" and "The Anatomy Lesson." Other best-sellers are "Sabbath's Theater," "American Pastoral," "I Married a Communist," "The Human Stain," "Deception" and "Exit Ghost." His latest work, "Nemesis," was published in 2010 and is likely to remain his last.
sd, ad/cmk (dpa/New York Times)