by Jamie Maxwell
American author Philip Roth has today been awarded the biennial Man Booker International prize for “achievements in fiction”.
The chair of the Booker judging panel Rick Gekoski said, “For more than 50 years, Philip Roth’s books have stimulated, provoked and amused an enormous and still expanding audience. His career is remarkable in that he starts at such a high level, and keeps getting better. In his 50s and 60s, when most novelists are in decline, he wrote a string of novels of the highest, enduring quality.”
In a video recorded acceptance speech, Roth said, “I hope the prize will bring me to the attention of readers around the world who are not familiar with my work. This is a great honour and I’m delighted to receive it.”
Roth has been a giant of American letters since the late 1960s when he published his break-out novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, the story of a sex-obssessed Jewish writer struggling against parental neuroticism.
Over the last four decades Roth has received a plethora of other accolades, including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer prize.
He is best known for his ‘American trilogy’ novels – American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain – which filter the wider political and cultural experience of 20th Century America through the life of author ‘Nathan Zuckerman’.
In 2005 Roth became one of only three fiction writers in US history – the others being William Faulkner and Saul Bellow – to have his entire collected works published by the Library of America.
Scottish novelist James Kelman – who won the Booker prize in 1994 for How Late It Was, How Late, regarded by many as the highwater mark of modern Scottish literary fiction – was among the unsuccessful candidates for the £60,000 prize.