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Philip Roth says "Nemesis" was his last novel

Philip Roth told a French publication that his 2010 novel "Nemesis" was his last.

The 79-year-old novelist spilled the news to Les inRocks and a spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt confirms his remarks. Roth's literary agent, Andrew Wylie, declined comment.

The New Jersey native completed more than 20 novels over half a century, and often turning out one a year. He won virtually every prize short of the Nobel and wrote such classics as "American Pastoral" and "Portnoy's Complaint."

His name will remain on new releases, if only because the Library of America has been issuing hardcover volumes of his work. Roth also is cooperating with award-winning biographer Blake Bailey on a book about his life.

Roth chose an unexpected forum to break the news, but he has been hinting at his departure for years. He has said that he no longer reads fiction and seemed to say goodbye to his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, in the 2007 novel "Exit Ghost."

Retirement is rarely the preferred option for writers, for whom the ability to tell stories or at least set down words is often synonymous with life itself. Poor health, discouragement and even madness are the more likely ways literary careers end. Roth apparently is fit and his recent novels had been received respectfully, if not with the awe of his most celebrated work.

His parting words from "Nemesis": "He seemed to us invincible."

Roth's interview appeared in French and has been translated, roughly, by The Associated Press. He tells Les inRocks that "Nemesis" was "mon dernier livre" ("My last book") and refers to "Howard's End" author E.M. Forster, and how he quit fiction in his 40s. Roth said he doesn't plan to write a memoir, but will instead go through his archives and help ensure that Bailey's biography comes out in his lifetime.

Explaining why he stopped, Roth said that at age 74 he became aware his time was limited and that he started re-reading his books of the past 20-30 years, in reverse order. He decided that he agreed with what the boxer Joe Louis had said late in life, that he done the best he could with what he had.

Je ne veux plus en lire, plus en ecrire, et je ne veux meme plus en parler," he added. ("I no longer want to read, to write, or even speak.")

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