The Asturias award for Literature has gone to American writer Philip Roth.
It is the fifth of the eight annual prizes to be announced ahead of October’s grand awards ceremony.
The Asturias prizes are regarded by many as second only to the Nobels in terms of prestige, and aim to recognise as wide a range of achievements as possible, including Sport, which is one of two prizes announced after the jury takes its summer break. The prizegiving ceremony in Oviedo, Spain, is in October.
Last year Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen won the prize. Recent past winners include the Nobel prizewinner Doris Lessing, Amin Maalouf, Arthur Miller, and Augusto Monterroso.
This year’s winner Philip Roth is one of only three writers to be included in the Library of America in their lifetime, a giant of American literature, yet an intensely private individual who shuns the fame his work has brought him.
His 1959 ‘Goodbye Columbus’ novella and short stories established Roth as a bright and funny rising star, but stellar fame would come with 1969’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’.
The novel was misread, sold by the bucketload, and was vilified as immoral by many, including some within Roth’s own Jewish community. It made him rich, but its subtle satire was ignored and it was pushed as libidinous thrill-a-minute pulp, with covers that put off librarians all over the world.
Roth travelled to escape, to Eastern Europe, and then London, immersing himself in eastern European literature, and then on his full-time return to America, the American classics.
He had been writing all the time, but on his return his works got weightier and the mature Roth has produced ‘Zuckerman Bound‘ - a trilogy of novels and an epilogue, ‘Operation Shylock’, ‘American Pastoral’, ‘Sabbath’s Theatre’, ‘The Human Stain’, ‘The Plot Against America’, and many more.
Now in his 70s Roth is still going strong; many say stronger than ever.