Philip Roth announces his retirement

Philip Roth says his novel 'Nemesis,' which was released in 2010, was his last book.

Richard Drew/AP
Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize and received the National Book Award twice during his career.

Say it ain’t so!

Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize winner, two-time National Book Award winner and novelist extraordinaire, says he will retire from writing.

The 78-year-old novelist announced his retirement quietly, in an interview with a French magazine that does not appear to have been reported in the US.

“To tell you the truth, I’m done,” Roth told Les Inrocks last month. “’Nemesis’ will be my last book.”

(The actual interview was published in French and quoted Roth’s words as “Pour tout vous avouer, j’en ai fini. Némésis sera mon dernier livre.”)

Salon contacted Roth’s American publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to confirm his retirement. “He said it was true,” Lori Glazer, vice president and executive director of publicity, told Salon.  

A seminal American novelist whose novels explored Jewish-American life, Roth produced a number of exemplary works of twentieth-century American fiction, including “Goodbye, Columbus,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” the collection “Zuckerman Bound,” and “The Human Stain.”

Roth told interviewer Nelly Kaprielian that at age 74, he realized he didn’t have much time left and began revisiting his favorite literature. He re-read his favorite novelists like Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Conrad, and Hemingway. Then he revisited his own books in reverse chronological order before writing his final work, “Nemesis,” in 2010.  

“I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing,” he said. “And I thought it was rather successful. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ This is exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.

“And after that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I do not want to read, to write more,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote and I read. With the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced in my life.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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