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The Human Stain: A Novel (2000)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The American Trilogy (3), Zuckerman Bound (8)

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5,919901,276 (3.85)229
Coleman Silk is a respected professor at a New England college who suddenly finds his life unraveling after a comment he makes about some African-American students is misinterpreted as a racial slur. As the scandal heats up, Nathan Zuckerman, a writer researching a biography of Silk, begins to dig deeply into Silk's life. Eventually, matters are made worse when Coleman's affair with a young married janitor named Faunia Farley is exposed. But amid the controversy, Silk must struggle to keep his greatest secret, a secret he's held for the majority of his life, from becoming made public.… (more)
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» See also 229 mentions

English (71)  Spanish (6)  French (5)  Italian (4)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  All languages (90)
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
This book somewhat made me cringe whilst reading it, but I think I appreciated it a lot more after discussing it at book club - there was a lot to talk about in it. I really don't think the female characters are any good, they just don't make sense and I really didn't need reminding of the size of Faunia's breasts quite so often. The central conceit of the book (Coleman Silk's secret) doesn't really hold up to any light scrutiny. But there are some great bits of writing in it too and some thought-provoking stuff. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Dec 7, 2020 |
Philip Roth is a brave author for trusting entirely to his story, relentlessly showing all of his cards at the start. There's no surprise ending here, only surprises along the way. His reveal about Coleman's past is so blunt and sudden, I thought I'd misunderstood at first. And still his story is compelling enough it doesn't matter. There is something quotable on nearly every page of this novel full of wisdom and insight about life and lives.

Since the author isn't shy with his own spoilers, I won't be either. Coleman clothes himself in an ulterior identity as a means of transcending societal limitations on his race. Thereafter he has a curiously adverse response to any minority group's movement to overthrow those limitations. It isn't merely disbelief in the movements' effectiveness. He finds them puerile, a childish tantrum against the laws of reality.

Coleman has progressed so far in his chosen direction that it becomes impossible for him to relate to what was, even when self-interest is at stake. Like a domesticated crow that can no longer return to the wild, his nature and identity have diverged too far to be reconciled. This theme applies as well to the other three central characters: a woman suffering from past traumas, a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD, and a professor caught between the country she left and one that won't accept her. All of them reject the notion of turning back, whatever their difficulties, because the identity they've embraced (or want to embrace) is more real.

I've not read Roth before, and I came to him anticipating less empathy for perspectives outside of his own background; a false impression I acquired somewhere. Only once did I wince - badly. Coleman muses about the possibility of his lover being better in bed as "a gift of the molestation" she suffered as a child. Try to read that as the character's thoughts alone. ( )
2 vote Cecrow | Sep 29, 2020 |
Im Sommer 1998, als der emeritierte Griechischprofessor Coleman Silk dem Ich-Erzähler seine Affäre mit der weitaus jüngeren Putzfrau Faunia Farley beichtet, denkt ganz Amerika "an den Penis des Präsidenten". Es ist der Sommer, in dem der Zigarrenakt Bill Clintons mit Monica Lewinsky ruchbar wird: Der Sommer der moralinsauren Vorwürfe und der scheinheiligen Reue also, in der "das Leben in all seiner schamlosen Schlüpfrigkeit Amerika wieder einmal in Verwirrung stürzte". Der Kenner des griechischen Dramas Coleman Silk ist selbst eine tragische Figur, die, wie ihr Präsident, öfters auch an fremde Frauen dachte. Und der Ich-Erähler ist der "anerkannte Schriftsteller" Mr. Zuckerman, der bald sein Buch Der menschliche Makel veröffentlichen will -- so geht es zu im neuen, doppelbödigen Roman von Philip Roth, in dem neben Sex natürlich auch das Judentum wieder eine zentrale Rolle spielt. Auf dem Höhepunkt seiner Karriere ist Silk, der verdienstvolle Dekan einer amerikanischen Universität, über eine Bemerkung gegenüber zwei abwesenden Afroamerikanerinnen gestolpert, die ihn völlig zu Unrecht in den Verdacht des Rassismus brachte: eigentlich eher ein Aufzug des absurden Theaters, der allerdings eine "Chronologie der Schrecken" und irgendwie sogar den Tod von Silks Ehefrau nach sich zieht. Und dann kommt auch wieder Faunia ins Spiel, die mit Silk ein großes Geheimnis teilt. Gern berichtete der Griechischprofessor den Studenten früher von Homers Achill, der aufgrund sexueller Zurückweisung zur "empfindlichsten Tötungsmaschine in der Geschichte der Kriegführung" mutierte. "In der Verletzung des phallischen Anspruchs beginnt die Dichtkunst", sagte er, "und genau aus diesem Grunde werden wir heute, beinahe dreitausend Jahre später, ebenfalls dort beginnen". Diese Verpflichtung hat Philip Roth mit seinem neuen großen Sittenporträt nach The Great American Novel eingelöst -- und das in der besten Manier, derer die US-Gegenwartsliteratur nach Clinton fähig ist. --Thomas Köster
  Fredo68 | May 14, 2020 |
Hated it. Too long boring at parts. ( )
  hivetrick | Feb 22, 2020 |
The best advice I can give if you want to read this book is to do so straight away and not to google it or read any reviews. Not even this one. There’s a massive reveal part way through and while I don’t intend to give the game away there’s always the chance I might unintentionally be passing information that will allow you to guess Coleman Silk’s secret. That said, I knew the secret going in as I’d seen the film and it didn’t ruin it for me as there’s so much more to the novel than a surprise.

The theme here is the idea of the impurity which might adhere to people as a result of impiety and the rituals people perform in an attempt to cleanse themselves and society. That may sound heavy. This is a heavy-weight novel, but doesn’t feel like one as you’re reading it. All beautifully handled as the scenarios of the story dance about this central theme and illuminate it from various angles.

With any other book, on that basis I’d call it a day and give it five stars, but what really impressed me were these set-piece passages, each unique, each with great energy that presses, presses, until the fabric of the fiction bends under the pressure and the fourth wall bows inward. The first of these, Farley’s PTSD daymare, quite shocked me with it’s power and then Roth somehow repeats the performance again and again, Fauna’s dance scene being a particular stand-out. The humanity of it.

It’s showing off really, but all is forgiven when a novel is this intense. ( )
  Lukerik | Jun 11, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Rothprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boutsikaris, DennisNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Britto, Paulo HenriquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fibla, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Formo, ToneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kamoun, JoséeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnane, GeorgesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mantovani, VincenzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Papaioannou TriseygeniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pàmies, XavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, MichaelaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Oedipus:
What is the rite
or purification? How shall it be done?

Creon:
By banishing a man, or expiation
of blood by blood . . .

--Sophocles, Oedipus the King
Dedication
For R.M.
First words
It was in the summer of 1998 that my neighbor Coleman Silk - who, before retiring two years earlier, had been a classics professor at nearby Athena College for some twenty-odd years as well as serving for sixteen more as the dean of faculty - confided in me that, at the age of seventy-one, he was having an affair with a thirty-four-year-old cleaning woman who worked down at the college.
Quotations
Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Prima «spettri», adesso «bianco»: chi sa quale stortura ripugnante sarà svelata dalla prossima locuzione un po' antiquata, dalla prossima frase idiomatica deliziosamente datata che gli esce volando dalla bocca? Come si viene smascherati o distrutti dalla parola ideale. Cosa svela il travestimento, la copertura e la dissimulazione? Questo, la parola giusta pronunciata spontaneamente, senza doverci nemmeno pensare.
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Coleman Silk is a respected professor at a New England college who suddenly finds his life unraveling after a comment he makes about some African-American students is misinterpreted as a racial slur. As the scandal heats up, Nathan Zuckerman, a writer researching a biography of Silk, begins to dig deeply into Silk's life. Eventually, matters are made worse when Coleman's affair with a young married janitor named Faunia Farley is exposed. But amid the controversy, Silk must struggle to keep his greatest secret, a secret he's held for the majority of his life, from becoming made public.

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