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Portnoy's Complaint (1969)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7,3601531,230 (3.6)1 / 242
Fiction. Literature. HTML:The groundbreaking novel that propelled its author to literary stardom: told in a continuous monologue from patient to psychoanalyst, Philip Roth's masterpiece draws us into the turbulent mind of one lust-ridden young Jewish bachelor named Alexander Portnoy. 
/> Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933- )] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: 'Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient's "morality," however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.' (Spielvogel, O. "The Puzzled Penis," Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationshi… (more)
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» See also 242 mentions

English (134)  Spanish (5)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (153)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
I was sifting through a box of old books from my shed and found this edition without a cover and missing page 37 (where one of Portnoy's testicles retreats into his body). Nevertheless, I began to read and Phillip Roth rapidly sucked (yes, sucked) me in to this damnable, relentlessly pejorative, monologue of Jewishness. There were many times I felt almost contaminated by the endless guilt, insecurity and Yiddish hatred of non- Jewish goyim, girls or shikses and just wanted it to end or go somewhere else.


But the shikses, ah, the shikses are something else again […] I am so awed that I am in a state of desire beyond a hard-on. My circumcised little dong is simply shriveled up with veneration. Maybe it’s dread. How do they get so gorgeous, so healthy, so blonde? My contempt for what they believe in is more than neutralized by my adoration of the way they look, the way they move and laugh and speak.


Is this why an essentially Jewish Hollywood movie industry fetishized and then spat out the blonde temptress? Is it Jewishness that is responsible for what is seen today as the objectification of women? Portnoy in name (Port Noir) is the black gate to, depravity, guilt, insecurity or what? By culminating in Portnoy's failed attempt to rape a red-headed Jewish/Israeli girl (his monstrous mother) due to lack of an erection, it is as though nothing is resolved. It's an extraordinary diatribe of a book that eventually just peters out (literally in a series of dots) with a weak punchline - exhausted.

The blurb says it is a funny book and I did laugh out- loud a few times:


...my father is a man who has a certain amount of worrying to do each day, and sometimes has to forgo listening to the conversations going on around him in order to fulfill his anxiety requirement. It can well be that he hasn't heard a word that she's been saying.
( )
  simonpockley | Feb 25, 2024 |
I am most assuredly female and there were many parts of this book that caused great eye-rolling from me. I sympathized with The Monkey more than Portnoy. I hope I spell a bit better. I recognized a couple of my Jewish boyfriends.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read. ( )
  rabbit-stew | Dec 31, 2023 |
not hard to understand the popularity of this book. there really is 'something for everyone' (male readers only). ostensibly, we have the humorous aspect of the work. there are some nice 'tongue in cheek' (so to speak) riffs. however, the real achievement here is the sleek embodiment of the modern reactionary (and curiously freudian) notion that all so-called 'do gooders' are motivated, at least in part, by psychosis. ( )
  Joe.Olipo | Sep 19, 2023 |
Gibberish ( )
  jmhdassen | Jul 26, 2023 |
Not what I expected - the ego contending with the id for superiority. The central conceit here is the urge for self-gratification, mainly symbolized in sex, masturbatory and otherwise, that stands in for the author's urge to write or the mind's desire for acceptance. Roth's picture of Jewish domestic life, with its neuroses and absurdities, influenced a lot of later comedy from Woody Allen to Jerry Seinfeld, who seem like pale imitations in comparison.

The profanity and sexual abandon might turn off some readers, but this is one of the funniest novels I have ever read. Roth writes with an honesty that, like his hero Alex Portnoy, is part perverted schmuck and part misunderstood genius. ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roth, Philipprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta i Gel, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoog, ElseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Molvig, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seemed to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.
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Fiction. Literature. HTML:The groundbreaking novel that propelled its author to literary stardom: told in a continuous monologue from patient to psychoanalyst, Philip Roth's masterpiece draws us into the turbulent mind of one lust-ridden young Jewish bachelor named Alexander Portnoy. 
Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933- )] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: 'Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient's "morality," however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.' (Spielvogel, O. "The Puzzled Penis," Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationshi

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