By Dennis Abrams
Last month, in a little noticed interview with the French publication Les inRocks, Philip Roth, seventy-eight years old and considered by many to be the greatest living American novelist, said that he had not written anything new in the last three years, and that he will not write any more novels.
“To tell you the truth, I’m done. Nemesis will be my last book.”
Roth said that several years ago, he had reread all his favorite novels, and then reread all of his own books in reverse chronological order. “I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing,” he admitted. “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.”
The interview was published in French, and translated into English by Salon.com, who asked Roth’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin, for confirmation. “He said it was true,” said Lori Glazer, vice president and executive director of publicity.