US novelist Philip Roth retires from public view after final interview

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 9:17pm


Philip Roth, widely regarded as one of the greatest US novelists of his generation, has confirmed he will be retiring from writing and from the public stage during a "final" interview with the BBC.

In the two-part documentary, the first part of which was aired yesterday, the reclusive author tells interviewer Alan Yentob that "this is my last appearance on television, absolutely my last appearance on stage anywhere".

Roth stunned the literary world 18 months ago when he told French cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles he was laying down his pen.

In the interview with BBC programme Imagine, 80-year-old Roth confirmed his retirement while looking back on the events that shaped a career spanning over 50 years and 31 books.

The grandson of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, Roth grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and his own life and Jewish background were constant sources of material for his fiction.

After limited success with 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, he hit stardom in 1969 with Portnoy's Complaint, a sexually explicit comedy about a young Jewish-American obsessed by masturbation and his mother.

During the interview, extracts of which were released by the BBC, Roth said that a comment made in 2004, in which he insisted he could not live without writing, had been misguided.

"I was wrong," he said. "I had reached the end. There was nothing more for me to write about.

"I set out upon the great task of doing nothing. I've had a very good time over the last three or four years. Now that I don't write, I just want to chatter away."

In recent years, Roth has lived a secluded life in the Connecticut countryside, which he described as a "very congenial" place to live and work.