Henry Roth

(1906-1995)


Henry Roth was born on February 8, 1906, in Galicia, Austro-Hungary (now Poland). A year after his birth, his family moved to New York City in search of economic opportunities. Roth published his first novel Call It Sleep, in 1934, but it did not receive much acclaim. After the book’s publication, Roth began and abandoned a second novel and wrote several short stories. In the early 1940s, however, he abandoned writing, and moved from New York to Maine and later to New Mexico, and worked as a firefighter, laborer and teacher, before retiring to a trailer park in Albuquerque.

In the mid-1960s, Call It Sleep was republished, became a best-seller and was recognized as a classic, but Roth originally did not welcome his new found success, valuing his privacy. Soon, however, he began to write again, at first short stories.

Ironically, the turning point in Roth’s career came with the Israeli Six-Day War. He discovered a deep sense of Jewish identity, and began jotting down his opinions.

At the age of 73, he began work on a series of novels that grew to six volumes, with final editing completed shortly before his death. The first four of these were published as a cycle called Mercy of a Rude Stream, while the last two manuscript volumes remain unpublished.

Roth died on October 13, 1995, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Sources: “Henry Roth (1906 - 1995).” American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random House, 1999). pg. 555-6.

Henry Roth: Wikipedia