In what may or may not be a hissy fit reaction to yet another Nobel snub (legal note: it isn’t), Philip Roth kind of sort of announced his retirement from writing last month in an interview with French publication Les Inrocks, a revelation which seemingly went unreported in the English language press until Salon picked it up on Friday, because French, amirite? (legal note: I am wrong)
By the by, if you were willing to give anglophone journos the benefit of the doubt and assume that they took the time to have such a monumental announcement dilligently translated, well, Salon would like you to know ‘The interview is published in French; we used an Internet program to translate his quotes into English.’
In the translated portions of the interview published in Salon, Roth tells Les Inrocks ‘To tell you the truth, I’m done. Nemesis will be my last book.’ Nemesis – Roth’s 31st book, an account of a wartime polio epidemic in small town Newark – was published in 2010, and the author claims not to have written anything new since its completion.
Instead, Roth has spent the past four years rereading his favourite novels, alongside all of his own work in reverse chronological order ‘to see if I had wasted my time writing.’
Apparently not: ‘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.’
His survey complete, Roth ‘decided that I was done with fiction. I do not want to read, to write more. 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.’
Fair play to the man, it’s hard to argue with that. Unless you’re Wikipedia or something.