Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A collection of Philip Roth quotes about aging, human life, writing, books, wit, hatred, joy, judgement and much more.

97 Philip Roth Quotes That Will Broaden Your Horizon

Quick Facts

Famous As: Novelist

Born On: March 19, 1933

Born In: Newark, New Jersey, USA

Philip Milton Roth, who gained critical attention with his novella 'Goodbye, Columbus' in 1959 is a renowned American novelist. The book paints a humorous picture of an average Jew's life that fetched him the U.S. National Book Award in the category of fiction. A majority of Roth's fiction works are set against the background of New Jersey and Newark. As a writer, he has a supple, ingenious style. His autobiographical descriptions and social philosophy blurs the distinction between fiction and reality. Roth's publication "Portnoy's Complaint" (1969) is a psychoanalytical monologue of a lust-ridden Jewish bachelor who's addicted to young mothers. Despite being humorous, he was criticized for the sexually explicit content, use of abusive language and shameful details. Roth's most popular character Nathan Zuckerman portrays his fictional alter ego and appeared in several novels including the Human Stain. He earned the National Book Award for Goodbye, Columbus (1960), the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral (1997) and the National Book Critics Circle award. He won PEN/Faulkner Award three times in his life, UK's WH Smith Literary Award and the Franz Kafka Prize at Prague. He also won the Man Booker International Prize for his lifetime achievement in fiction. Roth, who's an incredibly talented literary troublemaker, explores uncomfortable family and cultural issues to inspire the youth with his work. We’ve collected some of the most “optimistic” quotes penned by Philip Roth, one of America’s most celebrated and thematically grim novelists. Presenting a collection of Philip Roth quotes that have been lifted from his novels, writings and sayings!

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Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise.

Philip Roth

He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach - that it makes no sense.

Philip Roth

You put too much stock in human intelligence, it doesn't annihilate human nature.

Philip Roth

Stop worrying about growing old. And think about growing up.

Philip Roth

Because that is when you love somebody - when you see them being game in the face of the worst. Not courageous. Not heroic. Just game.

Philip Roth

The pleasure isn't in owning the person. The pleasure is this. Having another contender in the room with you.

Philip Roth

Literature takes a habit of mind that has disappeared. It requires silence, some form of isolation, and sustained concentration in the presence of an enigmatic thing.

Philip Roth

You tasted it. Isn't that enough? Of what do you ever get more than a taste? That's all we're given in life, that's all we're given of life. A taste. There is no more.

Philip Roth

Actually we did not have the feelings we said we had until we spoke them--at least I didn't; to phrase them was to invent them and own them.

Philip Roth

How easy life is when it's easy, and how hard when it's hard.

Philip Roth

Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that -- well, lucky you.

Philip Roth

You cannot observe people through an ideology. Your ideology observes for you.

Philip Roth

All that we don’t know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.

Philip Roth

I came to New York and in only hours, New York did what it does to people: awakened the possibilities. Hope breaks out.

Philip Roth

It's best to give while your hand is still warm.

Philip Roth

Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive.

Philip Roth

You can no more make someone tell the truth than you can force someone to love you.

Philip Roth

--nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others

Philip Roth

Nothing lasts and yet nothing passes either, and nothing passes just because nothing lasts.

Philip Roth

Everyone becomes a part of history whether they like it or not and whether they know it or not.

Philip Roth

I am marked like a road map from head to toe with my repressions. You can travel the length and breadth of my body over superhighways of shame and inhibition and fear.

Philip Roth

There are no uncontaminated angels

Philip Roth

I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and turn it around again...

Philip Roth

Nothing bad can happen to a writer. Everything is material.

Philip Roth

You be greater than your feelings. I don't demand this of you - life does. Otherwise you'll be washed away by feelings. You'll be washed out to sea and never seen again.

Philip Roth

Doctor doctor, what do you say, lets put the id back in yid

Philip Roth

Old age isn't a battle: old age is a massacre.

Philip Roth

There’s no remaking reality... Just take it as it comes. Hold your ground and take it as it comes. There’s no other way.

Philip Roth

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.

Philip Roth

I kept waiting for him to lay bare something more than this pointed unobjectionableness, but all that rose to the surface was more surface

Philip Roth

Like all enjoyable things, you see, it has unenjoyable parts to it.

Philip Roth

You have a conscience, and a conscience is a valuable attribute, but not if it begins to make you think you were to blame for what is far beyond the scope of your responsibility.

Philip Roth

In my childhood I led the life of a sage, when I grew up I started climbing trees

Philip Roth

Writing turns you into somebody who's always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right someday is the perversity that draws you on.

Philip Roth

And as he spoke, I was thinking, 'the kind of stories that people turn life into, the kind of lives people turn stories into.

Philip Roth

Dreams? If only they had been! But I don't need dreams, Doctor, that's why I hardly have them—because I have this life instead. With me it all happens in broad daylight!

Philip Roth

How Far back must we go to discover the beginning of trouble?

Philip Roth

Oh, to be a center fielder, a center fielder- and nothing more

Philip Roth

I was a biography in constant motion, memory to the marrow of my bones.

Philip Roth

The danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times more than you bargained for. Once you start, you can't stop.

Philip Roth

Literature got me into this mess and literature is going to have to get me out of it.

Philip Roth

It’s a family joke that when I was a tiny child I turned from the window out of which I was watching a snowstorm, and hopefully asked, "Momma, do we believe in winter?

Philip Roth

Who are the new people when you do meet them? They're the same old people in masks. There's nothing new about them at all. They're people.

Philip Roth

So. Now you know the worst thing I have ever done. I fucked my own family's dinner.

Philip Roth

A Jewish man with his parents alive is half the time a helpless infant!

Philip Roth

This is what you know about someone you have to hate: he charges you with his crime and castigates himself in you.

Philip Roth

I am the Raskolnikov of jerking off – the sticky evidence is everywhere!

Philip Roth

Now, I’m very vulnerable to female beauty, as you know. Everybody’s defenseless against something, and that’s it for me. I see it and it blinds me to everything else.

Philip Roth

Who are they now? They are the simplest version possible of themselves... They are out from under everything ever piled on top of them.

Philip Roth

He was no more, freed from being, entering into nowhere without even knowing it. Just as he'd feared from the start.

Philip Roth

Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn't. Except when it does.

Philip Roth

Either foreswear fucking others or the affair is over.

Philip Roth

Religion is the opiate of the people!

Philip Roth

Good Christ, a Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy till they die!

Philip Roth

The legend engraved on the face of the Jewish nickel– on the body of every Jewish child!– not IN GOD WE TRUST, but SOMEDAY YOU'LL BE A PARENT AND YOU'LL KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE.

Philip Roth

There are no reasons. She is obliged to be as she is. We all are. Reasons are in books.

Philip Roth

Too late, but I understand. That we don't perish of understanding everything too late, that is a miracle. But we do perish of that -- of just that.

Philip Roth

People are unjust to anger — it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.

Philip Roth

What use to skip those two grades in grammar school and get such a jump on everybody else, when the result is to wind up so far behind?

Philip Roth

It's human to have a secret, but it's just as human to reveal it sooner or later.

Philip Roth

War with Canada was far less of an enigma to me than what Aunt Evelyn was going to use for a toilet during the night

Philip Roth

Everything dictated silence and self-control but I couldn't restrain myself and spoke my mind.

Philip Roth

... and I experienced the bitter helplessness of a taunted old man dying to be whole again.

Philip Roth

Spring me from this role I play of the smothered son in the Jewish joke! Because it's beginning to pall a little at thirty-three!

Philip Roth

I couldn't imagine anything that could have made Coleman more of a mystery to me than this unmasking. Now that I knew everything, it was as though I knew nothing

Philip Roth

Don't judge it. Just write it. Don't judge it. It's not for you to judge it. Interview in Esquire Magazine 10/10

Philip Roth

...The end is so immense, it is its own poetry. It requires little rhetoric. Just state it plainly.

Philip Roth

What is astonishing is that we, who had no idea how anything was going to turn out, now know exactly what happened.

Philip Roth

I do not say correct or savory. I do not say seemly or even natural. I say serious. Sensationally serious. Unspeakably serious. Solemnly, recklessly, blissfully serious.

Philip Roth

The ending is immense. Tell it plainly".

Philip Roth

Everything you say says either more than you wanted it to say or less than you wanted it to say; and everything you do does either more than you wanted it to do or less than you wanted it to do.

Philip Roth

Everyone thinks at some time or other that in a hundred years no one now alive will be on earth - the overwhelming force will sweep the place clean.

Philip Roth

My God, he thought, the man I once was! The life that surrounded me! The force that was mine! No "otherness" to be felt anywhere! Once upon a time I was a full human being.

Philip Roth

As far as I can see there is no conquering or exorcising the past with words - words born either of imagination or forthrightness.

Philip Roth

I did not want to voice a word that would lift the cover and reveal that hideous emotion I always felt for her, the underside of love.

Philip Roth

When you publish a book, it’s the world’s book. The world edits it.

Philip Roth

You've got a good girl this time. Don't screw it up. Don't let her go.

Philip Roth

He was struck by how lives diverge and by how powerless each of us is up against the force of circumstance. And where does God figure in this?

Philip Roth

It's so heartbreaking, violence, when it's in a house-like seeing the clothes in a tree after an explosion. You may be prepared to see death but not the clothes in the tree.

Philip Roth

How much time could you spend staring out the ocean, even if it was the ocean you'd loved since you were a boy?

Philip Roth

Memoirs lie, but fiction tells the truth.

Philip Roth

It was puzzling to own trees - they were not owned the way a business os owned or even a house is owned. If anything, they were held in trust. In trust. Yes, for all of posterity,...

Philip Roth

Many farcical, illogical, incomprehensible transactions are subsumed by the mania of lust.

Philip Roth

But to wish oneself into another's glory, as boy or as man, is an impossibility, untenable on psychological grounds if you are not a writer, and on aesthetic grounds if you are.

Philip Roth

The pompous son of a bitch knows everythingit's too bad he doesn't know anything else.

Philip Roth

Mamma, don't you see -- you shouldn't hit me. He shouldn't hit me. You shouldn't hit me about God, Mamma. You should never hit anybody about God . . . .

Philip Roth

...they'll say, 'He never recovered from that breakdown and this was the result. It had to be the breakdown--not even he was that dreadful a novelist.

Philip Roth

Were we just two more rootless jungle-dwelling erotomaniacs creamining in their pre-faded jeans over Historical New England, dreaming the old agrarian dream in their rent-a-car convertible

Philip Roth

Terrifying encounters with the end? I'm thirty-four! Worry about oblivion, he told himself, when you're seventy-five! The remote future will be time enough to anguish over the ultimate catastrophe!

Philip Roth

In short, dozens of conflicting, truncated impressions were already teasing to be understood, but the wisest course seemed to me to keep them to myself so long as I didn't begin to know what they added up to.

Philip Roth

She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.

Philip Roth

Why can't Jews with their Jewish problems be human beings with their human problems?

Philip Roth

No, I won't do it. I will not be locked into your head in this way. I will not participate in this drama for the sake of your fiction. Oh, darling, the hell with your fiction.

Philip Roth

You know what I've come to realize about you kindly rich liberals who own the world? Nothing is further from your understanding than the nature of reality.

Philip Roth

But it is INTERESTING trying to get a handle on one's own subjectivity--something to think about, to play around with, and what's more fun than that?

Philip Roth

The tragedy of the man not set up for tragedy—that is every man's tragedy.

Philip Roth

Now that he was no longer grounded in his hate, we were going to talk about women.

Philip Roth