Philip Roth in Quotes: The Great American Novelist on Sex, Death, Trump and More

American author Philip Roth has died, aged 85.

The chronicler of Jewish experience, male lust and American politics was among America's most celebrated writers, and was garlanded with honors including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

Author Philip Roth poses in New York, on September 15, 2010. The novelist died on Tuesday, at age 85. Reuters Pics

Roth's first book was 1959's Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories. He he achieved notoriety with 1969's Portnoy's Complaint, whose central character struggles against his strict Jewish upbringing with a series of outrageous sexual exploits.

His other works include The Plot Against America, Everyman, The Human Stain and I Married a Communist.

Newsweek below relates some of the great author's most memorable quotes on the themes that obsessed him.

Aging and Dying

"Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre." Everyman

"Just like those who are incurably ill, the aged know everything about their dying except exactly when." The Facts

"And he couldn't do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here." Sabbath's Theater

Literature and Writing

"Literature isn't a moral beauty contest. Its power arises from the authority and audacity with which the impersonation is pulled off; the belief it inspires is what counts." Interview with The Paris Review

"Writing, for me, was a feat of self-preservation. If I did not do it, I would die. So I did it. Obstinacy, not talent, saved my life." Interview with The New York Times

"Writing is frustration—it's daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It's just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time." Interview with The New York Times

"Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise." Interview with The Paris Review

"Literature takes a habit of mind that has disappeared. It requires silence, some form of isolation, and sustained concentration in the presence of an enigmatic thing." Interview with The New Yorker


"Unless one is inordinately fond of subordination, one is always at war." The Dying Animal


"A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!" Portnoy's Complaint

"The legend engraved on the face of the Jewish nickel—on the body of every Jewish child!—not IN GOD WE TRUST, but SOMEDAY YOU'LL BE A PARENT AND YOU'LL KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE." Portnoy's Complaint


"As I see it, my focus has never been on masculine power rampant and triumphant but rather on the antithesis: masculine power impaired." Interview with the Daily Telegraph

Love and Sex

"The only obsession everyone wants: 'love.' People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you're whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You're whole, and then you're cracked open." The Dying Animal

"The dirty little secret is no longer sex; the dirty little secret is hatred and rage." Reading Myself

"No matter how much you know, no matter how much you think, no matter how much you plot and you connive and you plan, you're not superior to sex." The Dying Animal

"That is when you love somebody—when you see them being game in the face of the worst." The Human Stain


"When the whole world doesn't believe in God, it'll be a great place." Interview with CBS News

"I'm exactly the opposite of religious. I'm anti-religious. I find religious people hideous. I hate the religious lies. It's all a big lie." Interview with The Guardian

"All that we don't know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing." The Human Stain


A "humanly impoverished" con-man "destitute of all decency and wielding a vocabulary of 77 words that is better called Jerkish than English." Email to The New Yorker