Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, dies at 85

Philip Roth, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, dies at 85

(CNN) – Philip Roth, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and uncompromising realist who wrote about male lust, Jewish life and America died Tuesday night at a hospital in New York.

He was 85.

Roth died of congestive heart failure surrounded by close friends and family, his friend Judith Thurman said.

“I’m in a state of shock. I’m stunned and speechless. He was a truth teller,” Thurman said.

Roth was one of America’s most prolific 20th century novelists, with a career that included more than two dozen books and short stories. In addition to a Pulitzer, he won other top literary honors, including National Book Awards and PEN/Faulkner Awards.

“From the beginning of his long and celebrated career, Philip Roth’s fiction has often explored the human need to demolish, to challenge, to oppose, to pull apart,” the Pulitzer committee said when it awarded him the prize for fiction two decades ago for “American Pastoral.”

In 2012, he announced that his most recent book, “Nemesis,” published two years prior, would be the last one. He made the decision after he reread all his books.

“I decided that I was done with fiction,” he said at the time.”I don’t want to read any more of it, write any more of it, and I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. … It’s enough. I no longer feel this dedication to write what I have experienced my whole life.”

After he stopped writing, Thurman said, he spent his free time reading and swimming, and meeting friends.

“He was such a driven perfectionist, so when he felt his power ebbing, he wanted to quit at the top of his game, and he did,” she said.

Roth has never failed to provoke with his many books. They included 1959’s “Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories,” “The Plot Against America,” “Everyman,” “The Human Stain” and “I Married a Communist.”