Roth told Les inRocks that when he turned seventy-four he reread his favorite authors—Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Turgenev, Hemingway. Then, he said, “When I finished, I decided to reread all of my books beginning with the last, ‘Nemesis.’

“I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing. And I thought it was more or less a success. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ It’s exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.”

“After that, I decided that I was finished with fiction,” Roth went on. “I don’t want to read it, I don’t want to write it, and I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. I dedicated my life to the novel. I studied them, I taught them, I wrote them, and I read them. At the exclusion of nearly everything else. It’s enough!”

When asked if there could possibly be another book, Roth said, “I don’t think a new book will change what I’ve already done, and if I write a new book it will probably be a failure. Who needs to read one more mediocre book?”

Roth said that he saw nothing strange in retiring from literature. “Look at E. M. Forster,” he said. “He stopped writing fiction at around forty years old. And me, who wrote one book after another, I haven’t written anything in three years.”

He seemed to admit to a certain distance from everyday life. “I am seventy-eight years old, I don’t know anything anymore about America today. I see it on TV, but I am not living it anymore.”