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 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
Roth died on October 13, 1995, in Albuquerque, New
Sources: “Henry Roth (1906 - 1995).” American
Jewish Historical Society, American
Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random
House, 1999). pg. 555-6,