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"He was an exceptionally ambitious and comprehensive writer but also 'a dirty old man, '" Madelaine Levy, literature editor at the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, told AFP.

Philip Roth, one of the country's most celebrated writers, has died at 85.

He won multiple literary awards, including the Pulitzer prize in 1998 for "American Pastoral".

Philip Roth, a giant of USA literature whose work explored what it meant to be American, male and Jewish, was a towering figure among 20th century novelists whose five-decade career won him legions of awards around the world.

More recently, Roth published what would be his final novel "Nemesis" in 2010. He made the decision after he reread all his books. Roth epitomises the paradigm of the writer of visceral fiction, someone who, as PG Wodehouse said, "went deep down into life without caring a damn". "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".

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

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"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", Thurman said. His many controversial works included "Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories", "The Plot Against America", "Everyman", "Portnoy's Complaint" and "I Married a Communist". "In my life I have had, in total, a couple of months of these completely wonderful days as a writer, and that is enough". "Getting into bed at night I smile and think, "I lived another day", he told The New York Times in an interview earlier this year.

Roth described the protagonist as a "man possessed by risky sensations, nasty opinions, savage grievances, sinister feelings and ... stalked by the implacable presence of lust".

Roth's best-known work was the 1969 novel "Portnoy's Complaint", a first-person narrative about Alexander Portnoy, a young middle-class Jewish New Yorker. 'Sabbath's Theater, ' " Berlinerblau said. And in 2012, he officially announced that he did.

"The death of Philip Roth marks, in its way, the end of a cultural era as definitively as the death of Pablo Picasso did in 1973", wrote New York Times book critic Dwight Garner on Wednesday. His central protagonist was often a novelist, one who seemed to resemble Philip Roth greatly.

In his later years, Roth turned to the existential and sexual crises of middle age, never abandoning his commitment to exploring shame, embarrassment and other guilty secrets of the self, although usually with a heavy dose of humor.

Philip Milton Roth was born on March 19, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, the grandson of European Jews who were part of the 19th-century wave of immigration to the United States. He started his college education at the Newark branch of Rutgers University as a pre-law student, and eventually transferred to Bucknell College, where changed his major to literature. He earned his master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1955.