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The Human Stain (The American Trilogy #3)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  20,357 ratings  ·  1,286 reviews
It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town an aging Classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secre
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 5th 2001 by Vintage (first published 2000)
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Judy Wallace I don't think the reader is meant to know who wrote the clytemnestra memo. The point that Roth was making was that once the lie is out it remains out…moreI don't think the reader is meant to know who wrote the clytemnestra memo. The point that Roth was making was that once the lie is out it remains out and will be repeated and repeated with nothing to rein it back. The email address could be tracked but what would be the point since the email was posted to the fac.discuss board, i.e., the entire faculty. Roth doesn't attribute the memo to Delphine but he does say Coleman's death was her salvation by allowing her to tell the lie in the first place. Zuckerman simply moves on by saying that in Athena, where the people are bored and jealous, the story will be told and retold because it is the nature of the people and the place.(less)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”All he’d ever wanted, from earliest childhood on, as to be free: not black, not even white--just on his own and free. He meant no insult to no one by his choice, nor was he trying to irritate anyone whom he took to be his superior, nor was he staging some sort of protest against his race or hers. He recognized that to conventional people for whom everything was ready-made and rigidly unalterable what he was doing would never look correct. But to dare to be nothing more than correct had never be ...more
Katie Lynch
Sep 03, 2007 Katie Lynch rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not really anyone
Shelves: yuck
Hey Roth, I know you have a great vocabulary...Just tell me a damn story.

Let me explain: I just read a very positive review of this book stating that Roth has such an expansive vocabulary, and every word seems painstakingly chosen, etc. That is exactly what I hate about this book! A narrative is supposed to flow, not make you resolve to study the dictionary more fastidiously.

For the record, I have a pretty good vocabulary and I thorouoghly enjoy creative uses of the English language. But I des
The author sums it up perfectly on page 81
"You area a verbal master of extroadinary loquatiousness[P. Roth]. So Perspicatios. So fluent. A vocal master of the endless, ostentatious overelaborate sentence."


This book is the Jackson Pollock of our literary time. Just spatter everything all over the page and call it art. Roth goes on and on by using every single adjective he ever learned in his SAT class, in a row, then completely counters every argument he just made, so he can use all the oppo
Paul Bryant
Note to all relevant parties : This book made me laugh and cry. I absolutely fell in love with the characters!


So I watched the movie, and I really shouldn't have. To quote Pope Pius VII, it sometimes makes you wonder if you're on the right planet. Anthony Hopkins plays an extremely white black man! And the ever-crushingly beautiful Nicole Kidman plays an illiterate woman who's a janitor! Yes! And we're supposed to take this seriously! And the actor who plays the young Anthony Hopkins looks ab
الوصمة البشرية

عرفت فيليب روث في (سخط)، ولكني تعرفت عليه حقاً هنا، في هذه الرواية المذهلة التي ستهزك من الأعماق، وستلتقي خلالها بشخصية من أعظم الشخصيات التي أنجبها الأدب، (كولمن سيلك) الزنجي الذي تنكر لأصوله ولعائلته، وعاش حياته كلها كرجل أبيض، أبيض إلى درجة أنه ويا للسخرية يستقيل في أواخر عمره من الجامعة بعد اتهامه بالعنصرية، وضد من !!! ضد طالبين زنجيين !!

أمريكا 1998 م، أنظار كل الأمريكيين متجهة نحو البيت الأبيض، فضيحة مونيكا لوينسكي تهز كرسي الرئيس، وفي جامعة أثينا يسقط كرسي الدكتور المحترم ك
Fatema Hassan , bahrain

رواية الوصمة البشرية لفيليب روث - صناعة أمريكية بيتية الصنع ب إمتياز - كسرت النموذج السامي و الموحد للرواية المثالية في نظري، ففي بطن ال صفحة هذه، يوجد أكثر من حبكة تحرك الأحداث والشخصيات و لكن الأهم لكسر النموذج وسلطته التي تهيمن منذ مدة على جميع الروايات.. أن تكون هنالك حبكة تسيطر ليس فقط على هذه الرواية بل على جميع روايات روث، محرك خارجي ومستقل، قد يسميها روث بمفتاحه المربك وله كل الحق بهذه التسمية فلقد صمم ( كوبليه أدبي ) ، ففي شخص الراوي ناثان زوكرمان الذي يلازم روايات روث و يحافظ هنا على م
Andrew Smith
Set in New England, this book tells the story of a college professor accused of making a racist remark in one of his classes. The fact that what follows is patently unfair sets this book up as a commentary on extreme political correctness.

There is a lot of ground covered here - Vietnam, Clinton/Lewinsky, racism and ageing to name a few - and in typical Roth style it is rich, clever, complex and, at times, ranting. Not what I'd call a relaxing read but hugely worthwhile if you're in the mood.
oh, phillip roth! you CARD. you IMP. no one makes me laugh like you.

around this time last year i was on vacation on the cape reading american pastoral, another roth novella of fun and good humor! (read brinda's perfect description for an idea of that one.) i ended up forgetting the book there, with about forty pages left to read, and i never bought a new copy. i didn't care that i hadn't finished it because I WAS SO EXHAUSTED. the book wasn't bad. the book was great. but reading a roth opus is

للحق , الأدب الأمريكي هو أقل الآداب إثارة للاهتمام بالنسبة لي , فلا يغامرني تجاهه ذلك الفضول القاتل الذي يجبرني على البحث في أعماقه , وباستثناء إدجار آلان بو , لم أجد في تاريخ ذلك الأدب من يستحق أن يمثل لي عظمة خالصة , واعترف أن العيب في ذلك مني أنا , لأني لم أقرأ فيه كفايته .

ولكن هنا أجد نفسي أمام حالة شديدة الخصوصية , حالة من شأنها أن تُجبرني على الاهتمام بذلك الأدب ووضعه على رأس الأولويات , حالة تمثلت في رواية إنسانية من الطراز الرفيع , رواية قد تغير لك مزاجك الشخصي , بل قد تغير لك وجهة نظر ح
Philip Roth at the top of his game. Each time I read one of his books I'm further impressed by his talent.

The Human Stain digs deep into racism and its attendant politics in the 20th century. A light-skinned negro decides to "pass" as white and to do so successfully, he separates himself from his family. He enlists in the Navy as "white", attends college as "white", and marries a white woman as "white". After a long, distinguished career as a college professor and dean, he uses the word "spooks"
The only Roth I'd ever read was Portnoy, back when it came out (practically), and the Plot Against America - which didn't impress me at all. So I came to this book, which I listened to on audible, with a prejudice against Roth. I didn't like him, thought he was a fake, he didn't "look" like much of a writer to me, etc. etc. I probably wouldn't have gotten very far if I had been reading -- listening being a very different experience. (I do so much driving, that I listen to these things in drive-t ...more
Katie Abbott Harris
This novel was disappointing - I expected much more from it. The story details the life of an African American college professor who has been "passing" as white since he was in his late teens. He hid this fact from everyone he knew, including his wife and children. His secret begins to unravel when he refers to two absent students as "spooks." Because the students are black, the remark is deemed racist, when he had actually intended the word to mean "ghosts." The writing is extremely dull and ra ...more
Vincent Saint-Simon
Jul 07, 2008 Vincent Saint-Simon rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Post-modern hipsters
Mr. Roth,

Your banal prose and elementary gimmicks do nothing to endear yourself to me, sir. If, in the future, a thought flies into your head and you would like to put it down on paper, I would first suggest that you hide or burn every John Updike novel you've been petting to sleep each night, get yourself a fistful of fresh adjectives, and wipe your nose. Far too much of you gets onto the page, sir, and none of it is to your credit.

Many people are impressed because you wrote American Pastoral.
Marco Tamborrino
"Nel tentativo, senz'altro ammirevole, di crearsi, aveva l'impressione di essersi rovesciata."

Possiamo dire, non senza un briciolo di presunzione, che il male della società contemporanea sia l'adattamento. Ciò che un essere umano, per costrizione o per sua semplice volontà, ricerca ogni istante della sua vita. Si adatta per sopravviere. Smette di rimpiangere la società passata o smette di idealizzarne una tutta sua dove, al posto delle maldicenze, ci siano rose e fiori. "La macchia umana", ciò c
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 22, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books and 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core
New Jersey. 1940's to 1998. The main protagonist is a 71-year old former boxing champion and Athena's dean of faculty, Coleman Silk. He was dismissed from the university, called Athena because he referred, though innocently, the two absent black students as "spooks." Prior to his dismissal, he was having an affair with Faunin Farley, a 34-year old janitress of the school.

This 2000 novel of Philip Roth won the PEN/Faulkner Award and said to be the best novel he has written. This is my 3rd book b
[warning: spoiler!]

The thing that attracts me about this novel is quite simply how it is told. The narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, is also a character (albeit a relatively minor one although he grows in importance as the story continues). He is not, therefore, omniscient, although this becomes easy to forget. The novel is written as though he were omniscient, and then draws attention to this gap repeatedly at moments where Zuckerman explains who told him what, how he knows certain bits of informatio
I always meant to read some Philip Roth, but I imagined him as the sort of uber-masculine, perhaps even sexist, writer who would turn me off. I was wrong. I deeply enjoyed this book, even though there were some parts that some people might think of as sexist. (The Monica Lewinski bit, for example.)

In fact, this book made me realize that some of my favorite writers--Kundera, for example--are masculine types accused of being sexist. This is perhaps odd considering that I have never, ever had a pro
Jun 19, 2007 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
1. The amazing language. Philip Roth has such an amazing vocabulary, first off. Every word he uses seems painstakingly chosen and every sentence carefully constructed. Honestly, the writing itself is what kept me interested.
2. The idea of the educational playing field being decimated by politics. My favorite sections of the book were the few scenes that took place on campus.
3. I liked the parallels between Coleman and Clinton. Very clever. The title alone gave
So I read this book because I hadn't opened the covers of a Philip Roth novel since "Goodbye Columbus" (and that was more in homage to the film with Ali McGraw and Richard Benjamin) and decided it was time to punch this ticket. I have to admit I found the experience excrutiating. It was well written, at times fascinating, but there really wasn't a moment when I didn't want the experience to be OVER. It was like hearing nails scratching on the blackboard. One angry rant after another. Everybody i ...more
Anche in questo romanzo parla Nathan Zuckerman, alter ego di Roth.Narra le vicende del professore Coleman Silk, insegnante di lettere classiche all'università di Athena, nel New England. Un uomo che si porta dietro e dentro per oltre 50 anni un segreto, "una macchia", sul quale fonda e costruisce la sua esistenza Poi, un giorno, all'apice della sua carriera universitaria,con la pronuncia di una banale parola, "spook", rivolta a due studenti di colore assenteisti, il suo mondo crolla, e si ritrov ...more
Non so se c'è qualcosa, della miniera di perbenismo ipocrita che è la civiltà, che Philip Roth non abbia estratto per confezionare un romanzo così sporco di verità. I benpensanti e la loro morale, l'irresistibile convenienza di chi tace nel vedere un uomo ingiustamente accustato, il sottile sadismo di ciascuno quando una persona sufficientemente in vista può essere etichettata con una colpa, una macchia; quale sollievo per tutti gli altri, che possono invece sfruttare la sventura o l'errore altr ...more
So I've given this five stars not because I was particularly blown away by the story, and not because Philip Roth is incredibly smart with a great vocabulary, because I wasn't that amazed by that either really. I just really appreciate how Mr. Roth has created these characters, how indepth he got, showing their incredibly human imperfections. The part that really made me think, Oh gracious, she's a person and she's scared and she's really messed up now, was when Delphine claimed Coleman broke in ...more
This novel is about secrets. The protagonist, Colman Silk, is a college professor in western Massachusetts. At the beginning of the book, he resigns after a lot of controversy about a remark that is interpreted as racist. I would have rated this book higher except for the author's tendency to go on and on for pages about things I found irrelevant - the behavior of crows, a Vietnam Vet with PTSD (PTSS) who has many hangups and horrible public behavior and well as a long description of going to a ...more
Jan Rice
I can't remember when I read this; let's say circa 2004. Parts were underwhelming--maybe the part about the protagonist's affair with the younger woman. Parts, though, were excruciating--the part about what the protagonist has to endure to "pass," and what he would have given up had he not taken that course. Intolerable choices! Remembering that part I'll change to four stars. I also remember how the protagonist chose to marry a Jewish woman with wild hair--so that if his children didn't end up ...more
My first out-loud-laugh in this read:

“When we drink Organic Livestock milk, our body, soul, and spirit are getting nourished as a whole. Various organs in our body receive this wholeness and appreciate it in a way we may not perceive.” Sentences like that, sentences with which otherwise sensible adults, liberated from whatever vexation had driven them from New York or Hartford or Boston, can spend a pleasant few minutes at the desk pretending that they are seven years old.

Nathan Zuckerman, bac
Reading Roth is almost a spooky, sexual experience. I say that knowing this will sound absurd, trite and probably hyperbolic. But with Roth, his words are imbued with an almost carnal power, a spectral courage, energy and life. IT is like watching an absurdly talented musician do things with an instrument/with sound that bends the edge of possible. Reading Roth, I can understand how the audience in Paganini 's time wanted to burn the man for witchcraft, feared the man for his deal with the Devil ...more
How does he do it? The last book of the American Trilogy doesn't disappoint. I was sucked in pretty early and held captive by all of the beautifully written and insightful words. There were times when I was hideously laughing, hysterically cackling, but not from the humor. This is the laughter one blurts out in the face of danger and disgust. The kind of laughter you might remember emitting at your grandmother's funeral, or the snickering you let out in front of the bully that was poised to kick ...more
Hugo Emanuel
No romance “A Mancha Humana” é-nos narrada através da pena de Nathan Zuckerman (espécie de alter-ego de Roth) a história de Coleman Silk, um enérgico reitor caído em desgraça na sequência de uma acusação de racismo completamente infundada e do seu subsequente “renascer espiritual”. Mas subjacente á sua história está também o retrato de uma América onde a hipocrisia da falsa moralidade e puritanismo predomina sobre o bom senso; onde o boato e exagero são tidos mais em conta do que factos e ponder ...more
Venkat Narayanan
My grandfather who had traveled the subcontinent extensively used to tell me exquisite stories. The Sadhus of Varanasi. The currency press in Nashik. The prostitutes of Bombay. The bookshops in Connaught Place. The voodoo men of Chottanikara. The waterfalls around Tirunelveli. Each richly narrated with the tiniest of detail. In one such tales he told me about a muslin saree weaved in Dhaka which could be folded into a matchbox. This is what I got reminded when I finished reading The Human Stain. ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Oedipus in New Jersey

There are a number of ways to read the Human Stain, but the one I kept coming back to was the idea of it being a modern tragedy. That is, a tragedy in the Greek or Shakespearean sense, with the protagonist bringing about their own downfall. It made so much sense to me, with the idea of disgraced hero Coleman Silk being a classics professor brought down by an accidental racist remark, his fatal flaw not bigotry but a refusal that times have changed since his own day, as well
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Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and inc ...more
More about Philip Roth...

Other Books in the Series

The American Trilogy (3 books)
  • American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1)
  • I Married a Communist
American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories Everyman

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“Because that is when you love somebody - when you see them being game in the face of the worst. Not courageous. Not heroic. Just game.” 102 likes
“The pleasure isn't in owning the person. The pleasure is this. Having another contender in the room with you.” 97 likes
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