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The Counterlife by Philip Roth
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The Counterlife (1986)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Zuckerman Bound (5)

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1,1581710,840 (3.92)26

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English (11)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
An author's anti-Jewish antics come full circle when he feels discriminated against for being Jewish. If Roth embellished on such a plot, I'd have been satisfied. But he instead dwells on a few alternative histories revolving around men suffering mid-life crises. Specifically, how brothers view each other when they undergo operations to recover their masculinity. There's no room for love in The Counterlife, jam-packed as it is with vitriol. Against Jews or gentiles, West or East, partners or society. All expressed in eloquent and elongated monologues.

I was looking for something more like Roth's more sensitive works, the likes of Indignation, Human Stain and Goodbye, Columbus. I marched on hoping for a denouement which strikes a chord. It never came. ( )
1 vote jigarpatel | Mar 31, 2019 |
4.5 stars ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
This is Roth at his absolute best, blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction, while explicitly showing the reader the craft of writing and the choices the author makes. Here, the narrative doesn't follow an entirely linear format; instead it continually resets and passes certain events between characters. Who has the affair, who gets cancer, how might it change the family if a twist of fate turned the other way? Truly one of the best books I've ever read. It's so good that I feel like I should go back through my book ratings and drop the other 5 star books down to 4. ( )
  jscape2000 | Jun 14, 2015 |
Sono a metà ma non credo cambi registro.
Uno dei migliori Zuckerman, a mia memoria.

Poi, a prescindere da Nathan, credo che in ogni libro di Roth - sopratutto se appartengono al periodo incantato degli anni 80, dove si situa questo - non si possa fare altro che imparare.
L'equilibrio dei dialoghi, la piattaforma perfetta della traduzione, l'intelligenza che ogni fottuta frase butta fuori e mi annichilisce per la mia incompetenza, ogni 'petit morceau': tutto mi butta in avanti rispetto al minuto prima. Finisco un libro di Roth e mi sento meglio, so che ho ascoltato dialoghi dei quali vorrei essere l'interprete, di una vita che tutto sommato un pochetto invidio.

Questi jewish che parlano dei cazzi loro, che analizzano freudianamente ogni sincope del loro malessere sono spettacolari. Vale la pena di farsi un giorno di ferie e stare qualche ora sul divano in compagnia di questi spostati.

Ad ogni modo, la letteratura di questi ultimi anni. Con l'articolo determinativo.
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Poi si entra nel gioco degli specchi della meta-letteratura, e nello stesso tempo ho visto pure Inception che, seppur su piani diversi, mi riporta a questo libro. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
I should probably start out by saying that I think Philip Roth is a pretty terrific writer. When he's on his game, you'd be hard pressed to find a more fluid, more insightful, and more bitingly funny wordslinger anywhere in the bookstore. I'm not sure that "The Counterlife" represents his best work, though. Sure, a lot of what has justly made him famous is still present: the interrogation of Jewish identity, the power of narrative and reminiscence to shape personality, and beautiful, flowing sentences that seem to leap right from the author's brain to the reader's. Still, everything's got its limits, and too much of "The Counterlife" seems less like a novel than a series of lightly fictionalized personal essays. Characters seem to appear out of nowhere just to make their points, only to disappear. Various letters are transcribed in their improbably lengthy entirety. Ideas, experiences, the very stuff of life is endlessly mulled over and digested. And so on. By the time that a character offered an analysis of a book that is almost certainly "Portnoy's Complaint" at the funeral for Nathan Zuckerman, who is almost certainly Philip Roth, I just gave up. You could probably argue that novel-writing itself is a fairly self-indulgent activity, so, theoretically, a little self-analysis shouldn't ruffle my feathers. But, again, there are limits. Even if you're Philip Roth. Maybe "never include the full text of the eulogy that will be delivered at the funeral for your obviously autobiographical narrator" should be added to the master list of fiction's unbreakable rules, to be given to first-year creative writing students along with gems like "never end a short story by having your main character commit suicide." Rules to live by, people.

Still, Roth's a writer of such talent that he can be interesting even when he's unsuccessful. The second section of "The Counterlife," in which the unassuming dentist brother of authorial stand-in Nathan Zuckerman survives a major heart operation, becomes depressed, and decamps to Israel to join a far-right settler movement, is worth the reader's time. In this iteration of the story, Roth's Jewish characters seem like the polar opposites of the inward, sensitive, contemplative, self-effacing characters one so often encounters in the author's fiction. These characters' Jewish identity is, as per Jung, wholly externalized as a fierce, intractable territoriality and their personal insecurities thrown out in the world as anger and violence. In a sense, it's an interesting companion piece to "The Plot Against America," a sort of mirror image of Roth's fiction in which the Jewish cultural assimilation that has informed so much of Roth's fiction never took place. It's not pretty, but it might be called another important facet of Roth's ever-evolving conception of the Jewish personality. As for the rest of "The Counterlife," well, I just didn't have the patience.
1 vote TheAmpersand | Jul 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salovaara, KyöstiForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veer, Rob van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my father at eighty-five
First words
Ever since the family doctor, during a routine check-up, discovered an abnormality on his EKG and he went in overnight for the coronary catheterization that revealed the dimensions of the disease, Henry's condition had been successfully treated with drugs, enabling him to work and to carry on his life at home exactly as before.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679749047, Paperback)

The saga of Henry and Nathan Zuckerman continues, 13 years after novelist Nathan Zuckerman first appeared in Roth's 1974 effort, My Life as a Man. In The Counterlife, the dentist Henry suffers an unsettling--and for Roth, a predictable--side effect to his heart medication: impotence, which leads him to undergo an ill-fated operation. The multi-layered plot line travels from New York to London to Israel, while the characters undergo a series of surprising transformations. In the words of Nathan, a change in one's life causes "a counterlife that is one's own anti-myth." It's vintage Roth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The Counterlife is about people enacting their dreams of renewal and escape, some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter seemingly irreversible destinies. Wherever they may find themselves, the characters of The Counterlife are tempted unceasingly by the prospect of an alternative existence that can reverse their fate. Illuminating these lives in transition and guiding us through the book's evocative landscapes, familiar and foreign, is the miind of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman. His is the skeptical, enveloping intelligence that calculates the price that's paid in the struggle to change personal fortune and reshape history, whether in a dentist's office in suburban New Jersey, or in a tradition-bound English Village in Gloucestershire, or in a church in London's West End, or in a tiny desert settlement in Israel's occupied West Bank.

» see all 5 descriptions

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