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  • Published: 1 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099535652
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • RRP: $19.99

The Humbling

Another brilliant short novel by Philip Roth

Everything is over for Simon Axler. One of the leading American stage actors of his generation, now in his sixties, he has lost his magic, his talent and his assurance. When he goes on stage he feels like a lunatic and looks like an idiot. His wife has gone, his audience has left him, his agent can't persuade him to make a comeback. In this long day's journey into night, told with Roth's inimitable urgency, bravura and gravity, all our life's performances - talent, love, sex, hope, energy, reputation - are stripped bare. Following the dark meditations on mortality and endings in Everyman and Exit Ghost, and the bitterly ironic retrospect on youth and chance in Indignation, Roth has written another in his haunting group of late novels.

  • Published: 1 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099535652
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Philip Roth

Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey on 19 March 1933. The second child of second-generation Americans, Bess and Herman Roth, Roth grew up in the largely Jewish community of Weequahic, a neighbourhood he was to return to time and again in his writing. After graduating from Weequahic High School in 1950, he attended Bucknell University, Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago, where he received a scholarship to complete his M.A. in English Literature.

In 1959, Roth published Goodbye, Columbus – a collection of stories, and a novella – for which he received the National Book Award. Ten years later, the publication of his fourth novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, brought Roth both critical and commercial success, firmly securing his reputation as one of America’s finest young writers. Roth was the author of thirty-one books, including those that were to follow the fortunes of Nathan Zuckerman, and a fictional narrator named Philip Roth, through which he explored and gave voice to the complexities of the American experience in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

Roth’s lasting contribution to literature was widely recognised throughout his lifetime, both in the US and abroad. Among other commendations he was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the International Man Booker Prize, twice the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, and presented with the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal by Presidents Clinton and Obama, respectively.

Philip Roth died on 22 May 2018 at the age of eighty-five having retired from writing six years previously.

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Praise for The Humbling

This is another dark and wonderfully written meditation on life and love by one of American's greatest living writers

Ruth Atkins, Bookseller

There is a clarity, almost a ruthlessness, to his work, which makes the experience of reading any of his books a bracing, wild ride... He is the great postwar chronicler of America... He is the last of the giants

Erica Wagner, The Times

Slim, fast-moving, sometimes funny but mostly bleak read ... original and unsettling

Aravind Adiga, The Times

Roth is no longer a novelist of comic exuberance, but of thoughtful meditation about life and increasingly death; he is our surviving laureate of lateness. His new work will not detain you long, but it will linger

Stephen Abell, Telegraph

His most savage and unrelenting work yet ... (Roth) has lost neither his voice nor his power to shock

Rosemary Goring, Sunday Herald

The novel, bleak, uncertain, and full of fear, finds traction in familiar Rothian interrogations - of the self's deviousness, the impossible murkiness of motive, and the performative nature of identity - and it is these which produce the book's cruellest apprehension: "The failures were his, as was the bewildering biography on which he was impaled.

The New Yorker

Roth's late prodigious burst of creativity continues

Siobhan Murphy, Metro

Roth ...knows no limits, which is part of the fun of reading him

Jason Cowley, New Stateman

Adds to his reputation as one of American literature's greats

The Times

While the other big beasts of his literary generation lost it one by one, Roth has enjoyed a flowering of late form barely seen since Yeats. And these little masterpieces are coming out once a year, if not faster

Literary Review

Told with the customary subtle, spare and beautiful prose that is Roth's mark

The Tablet

At his best when things are at worst

Daily Express

The great man of American literature still flashes with brilliance

Lucy Tobin, Sunday Express

Witty and provocative

Helen Brown, Daily Mail

Roth scores a palpable hit


I read everything by Philip Roth...As he's got older he's writing these incredible, unflinching books about the ageing process

Tracey Thorn, The Word

wonderful touches

Adam Lively, Sunday Times

The Humbling is a stark triptych of breakdown, rehabilitation and outcome that reprises recent themes of loss, ageing and sexual potency.

Financial Times

...the book's prose is pure Roth, perfect and precise...While Roth's Humbling may be occasionally implausible, his humbling (small "h") has been more real: since publication, critics have attacked this book, suggesting that Roth, like Axler, has "lost his magic". He hasn't. There are definitely some silly moments here but there are also some perfect ones. Roth's talent is, unlike Axler's, far more dead.


a grimly funny commentary of the universal drama of ageing.

The Times

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