Author of more than 25 books, Roth was both hailed and derided for laying bare the neuroses and obsessions that haunted the modern Jewish-American experience. His agent says the author died of congestive heart failure.

A prolific essayist and critic, Philip Roth was best known for mining the Jewish-American experience in his work.
A prolific essayist and critic, Philip Roth was best known for mining the Jewish-American experience in his work. (Reuters Archive)

Prolific novelist Philip Roth, a dominant force in American literature throughout the latter half of the 20th century, has died, US media said on Wednesday. He was 85.

The New Yorker magazine first reported the death of Roth, who won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his acclaimed novel "American Pastoral."

The New York Times, citing a close friend, confirmed the death of the writer, who lived in New York and Connecticut.

Roth's literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said that the author died in a New York City hospital of congestive heart failure.

A prolific essayist and critic, Roth was best known for mining the Jewish-American experience in his work.

His titanic stature on the post-World War II literary scene came from the universality of his message — in his own words: "I don't write Jewish, I write American."

A fierce satirist

He long managed to sustain his literary output both in terms of quality as well as quantity, as exemplified by his widely admired political trilogy that included "American Pastoral" as well as "I Married a Communist" (1998) and "The Human Stain" (2000).

Author of more than 25 books, Roth was a fierce satirist and uncompromising realist, confronting readers in a bold, direct style that scorned false sentiment or hopes for heavenly reward. 

He was an atheist who swore allegiance to earthly imagination, whether devising pornographic functions for raw liver or indulging romantic fantasies about Anne Frank. 

In "The Plot Against America," published in 2004, he placed his own family under the anti-Semitic reign of President Charles Lindbergh. 

In 2010, in "Nemesis," he subjected his native New Jersey to a polio epidemic.

In the novel "The Ghost Writer" he quoted one of his heroes, Franz Kafka: "We should only read those books that bite and sting us." 

For his critics, his books were to be repelled like a swarm of bees.

Nobel Prize eluded him

The decorated author won most top literary honors but the coveted Nobel Literature Prize eluded him.

The Swedish Academy announced earlier this month there will be no Nobel Literature Prize this year in the wake of a crisis stemming from the anti-sexual harassment #MeToo campaign.

Philip Milton Roth was born on March 19, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, the grandson of European Jews who were part of the 19th-century wave of immigration to the United States.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies