Novelist Philip Roth, a two-time National Book Award winner for Goodbye Columbus and Sabbath's Theater, received an honorary medal when The National Book Foundation presented its 2002 awards November 20 in New York City.
Hailing him as "one of America's most acclaimed and inventive authors," the Foundation recently announced it would confer its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on Mr. Roth for his "prolific publishing history over six decades (that) has achieved both best-seller status and critical praise." The medal recognizes writers who, in the opinion of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, have enriched our literary heritage over a life of service or body of work.
A Yaddo guest artist several times, Mr. Roth was born in New Jersey and received a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1955. He received the National Book Award for Fiction in 1960 for his 1959 debut collection, Goodbye Columbus. He won the National Book Award for Fiction again in 1995 for Sabbath's Theater, and was a finalist four other times [for My Life as a Man, (1975); The Ghost Writer, (1980); The Anatomy Lesson (1984); and The Counterlife, (1987)]. His other notable and acclaimed books include Portnoy's Complaint, Patrimony, Operation Shylock, American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and last year's The Human Stain.
Mr. Roth inaugurated and for 15 years served as general editor of the Penguin book series "Writers from the Other Europe," introducing the work of such writers as Bruno Schulz and Milan Kundera to American audiences. He retired from teaching as a Distinguished Professor of Literature at Hunter College in 1992, after many years of teaching comparative literature, primarily at the University of Pennsylvania and also at Iowa and Princeton. His fiction essays have appeared in many magazines, including Esquire, Harper's Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Paris Review, and Playboy. Mr. Roth has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1970 and in 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.
Mr. Roth is the 14th recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, established in 1988. Previous Yaddo writer recipients of the award include Saul Bellow, Gwendolyn Brooks, Clifton Fadiman, and Eudora Welty.