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The Counterlife (Complete Nathan Zuckerman #6)

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  2,874 Ratings  ·  203 Reviews
The Counterlife is a novel unlike any that Philip Roth has written before, a book of astonishing 180-degree turns, a book of conflicting perspectives and points of view, and, by far, Roth's most radical work of fiction.

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 irreversibl
ebook, 336 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1986)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 09, 2009 Jessica marked it as aborted-efforts  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dicklits
One thing writing all these book reports has done is help me figure out why I read. Our Lady of the Flowers really clarified some key reasons for it in an unavoidably brash, ballsy, obvious way even I could understand: I read because my adult mind is worn out, is tired, it's limp and lazy, my mind's become frustratingly ineffectual and can't always get going. It wants to love the world, but it's become increasingly difficult for it to muster the necessary excitement. I'll be out walking around s ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“People are unjust to anger — it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.”
― Philip Roth, The Counterlife


Structurally brilliant, with a prose that shoots aggressively off every page. Roth begins his narrative with erectile disfunction and ends it with a nod to the circumcised erection of the Jewish father. Roth is going to travel and transform. He is going to elect for historical plastic surgery just so he can pick at every wound and irritate every scar of the past. He will use and abuse every bias a
Jan 31, 2011 Reese rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
GOOD NEWS: I finished this book.
BAD NEWS: Although I've long been a fan of Philip Roth's work, after reading this one, I moved some Roth books on my to-read shelf so far down the list that I may wind up reading them posthumously -- when my solar calendar and Jewish calendar have been replaced by an eternity calendar.

The odds in Vegas were heavily tilted in favor of my liking THE COUNTERLIFE. Hey, the book contains material on subjects of considerable interest to me: anti-Semitism, the non-Jewis
May 09, 2016 William1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, us, 20-ce
A masterpiece. When I reread it again I'll make more extensive notes. A real knock-out of a novel---and funny!
Kimberly Erskine
I loved Philip Roth’s The Counterlife. It was one of those rare books that could make me feel a multitude of emotions and it took me by surprise. It is rare that books truly take me by surprise and have unexpected twists in the plots. This book did everything.

In the beginning this book offended me. I was outraged by the raw, raunchiness of it. I hated the character of Henry. He disgusted me. I hated the way he left his family to have an affair. I hated the way he risked his life to have a danger
Jul 19, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
This pushes much harder against the constraints of the novel form than any of the other Roth I've read. The book is anchored around Nathan Zuckerman and his relationship with his estranged brother Henry, but Roth takes that relationship and rearranges it in each section to delirious, recursive effect. Philip Roth juggles the concerns of death, rebirth and escape that many of his Jewish characters deal with in his fiction, but in this book those evasions actually bleed out of his familiar New Jer ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 20, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
The Question before Finkler

Entertaining, thought-provoking, technically brilliant, and timely. Timely too in its relationship to another much-lauded book, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question, the most recent Man Booker winner. By coincidence, a friend gave me her copy of the Roth on the same day that I bought the Jacobson; neither of us connected the two. But now, having enjoyed both books immensely, I am amazed at how closely Roth anticipates Jacobson 34 years earlier. Both authors treat the
Sep 14, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if this haunting novel stands up to the very best of Roth (American Pastoral, Sabbath's Theater, Patrimony, The Ghost Writer), but I know that it has colonized my brain, that I'm going to have to keep returning to its wisdom and authority for a long time to come.
Oliver Twist & Shout

Cómo me gustó la primera parte de la novela. Entre todo lo que he leído de Philip Roth, es quizá su propuesta estética más audaz. Conformado por bloques narrativos pertenecientes a capas de realidad diferentes, en cada uno de ellos el destino de los personajes difiere y se pone en duda la realidad abordada por la novela. Imaginativa, irónica, es quizá lo más cercano a un juego posmodernista por parte de un autor que, por lo demás, escribe como si el siglo XX estuviera todavía por llegar.

Esa prim
Gary Greenberg
Oct 29, 2009 Gary Greenberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Lawrence
Aug 14, 2013 Kevin Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roth is certainly an entertaining, witty, and creative story-teller. The structure of this book reminded me that while Roth leaves a lasting impression of making our more unseemly side seem more human and even touchingly funny, his real strength as a novelist is the imaginative narrations of his novels. I still regard "American Pastoral" and "Sabbath's Theater" as his masterpieces, but "The Counterlife" shares the grafting of individual/family stories with larger social narratives as well. Can't ...more
Frances Lockhart
Jan 24, 2011 Frances Lockhart rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My first Philip Roth experience and I'm not overly impressed.

The idea of The Counterlife was a good one - alternate endings and outcomes to a person's life, kind of like an adult version of "choose your own adventure" stories I used to read as a kid. But the execution of this book was far too self involved, with pages and pages of monologues that seemed completely unrealistic (who has conversations where people woffle on for 20 minutes uninterupted??) and too heavy in the philosophical, zionisti
Feb 08, 2013 Fred rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roth
This is not a great story it is four great stories. Roth plays with narrative offering several different resolutions for the same conflict. In the hands of a less skilled writer it might be confusing but it is never that way with Roth. Certain scenes -- many scenes -- are unforgettable.
Aug 09, 2015 Rafa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: relectura
Me gusta mucho esta novela, trata multitud de perspectivas del judaísmo.
Jan 24, 2012 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where to start... I can't tell you with certainty which events were the novel, which the novel within the novel and whether in the last two sections the Maria character didn't violate the rules of both. DAMN. Shit, Philip Roth. These are some big thoughts. This novel is brilliant and it is about erectile dysfunction. Yeah, Philip Roth, unlike any artist I can think of, once again confronts the gaping wounds of life through sex and I mean--Christ--it's just a masterpiece. The brother stuff was fa ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was not sure how many stars I would give to this novel. If you've followed my writing about my reading for any time, you now that I'm rather ambivalent about Philip Roth. In the late nineties I read Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint and enjoyed them. Portnoy's became one of my favourite novels. However, many other Roth novels I read I did not like. Some that were highly acclaimed and award-winning, I did not even finish (I delighted in the way Christopher Hitchens would attack each new ...more
Feb 07, 2011 char rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first book by Philip Roth.
A tale of two brothers who are also perhaps the same person, of brotherly tenderness and assassination and the invention and destruction of Jewish identities. 'Jewish' is identity here for the most part, but there's many different types.
Philip Roth lifts veil after veil on a story within a story within a, the narrator(s) die several times in several different ways, people blend names and relationships and finally the characters themselves rebel against th
Mar 11, 2013 Kurt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's all there: Fate reversal; Jewish angst; upper middleclass phobias and snobbery disguised as manners; literary sleight of hand; adultery; religious zealots with guns; a failed hijacking with subsequent anal probes; the life of a successful Jewish author as seen through the eyes of a successful Jewish author; a life and death decision based solely on whether it is better to live a long, chaste life with the "shiksa" you left your wife for, or, risk open heart surgery that will free Nathan Zuc ...more
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Es buen momento, tras el príncipe de Asturias, para poner esta reseña de uno de los libros de este coloso de las letras norteamericanas y que estaba retrasando en demasía.

En la densa y excepcional “Zuckerman encadenado”, asistíamos a la creación del alter ego más conocido de Philip Roth (otro sería el muy sexual David Kepesh) a través de un libro que constaba de tres libros y un epílogo maravilloso y complejo. En “La contravida” tenemos la “se
Joshua Morris
Aug 29, 2013 Joshua Morris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Counterlife is the next installment of Phillip Roth's stand in, Nathan Zuckerman in his journey. It takes place after his huge success, and its repercussions on his relationships both with his loved ones and with himself. It's a novel within a novel within a novel about the process of writing fiction -- not from a technical point of view but a mind bending meditation on how facts and relationships are altered in the act of making fiction.

It is equally a novel about Jewish identity, (a theme
Dec 25, 2013 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Primero. Esta novela es una caja de juegos metaliterarios de los que no quiero adelantar nada para no arruinarle la sorpresa al lector.

Segundo. En esta ocasión Nathan Zuckerman rebasa sus fronteras y va más allá de Newark para satirizar con vehemencia la identidad judía y sobre todo el sionismo con base en Israel, estado al que se enfrenta y critica por todos los ángulos, sin dejar cabos sueltos, desde cualquier punto de vista imaginable. Así tenemos a su amigo Shuki Elchanan, un crítico conser
In quest'opera il grande scrittore ebraico americano si cimenta col metaromanzo, ovvero un romanzo sul piacere di scrivere romanzi, come direbbe Italo Calvino. Solo che di piacevole non c'è niente.

In quella che sembra una dichiarazione di poetica, Nathan Zuckerman parte dagli spiriti stritolati dei suoi personaggi e ne immagina il tentativo disperato di usicre dalla secca della loro esistenza creandone un'altra diametralmente e scandalosamente opposta per valori e sentire: la controvita appunto
Nathan Zuckerman is a perfect opportunity for Philip Roth to be philosophical about the art of writing. And not just in word, but in deed - with Nathan Zuckerman being a fictional Philip Roth (with all of the biographical criticism and paradoxes no doubt intentional), Roth gets a perfect opportunity to muse on being a writer and the art of writing in a fictional rather than critical setting.

In this book, Zuckerman reinvents a few different versions of the tale of his relationship with his brothe
Lee (Rocky)
I think I appreciate this book in an abstract sense more than I actually enjoyed it while reading it. Roth constructs an interesting novel that really does a great job of exploring the complex relationships between an author and his characters, between an author and the people in his life, between the people in an author's life and the characters that they perceive to be based on themselves, and between a person and their own sense of who they are. The story is unusual is that some of the facts ...more
Jul 29, 2012 cheeseblab rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An autobiographical headnote, by way of explaining why it took me a month to read this. I began it while flying to Illinois to work on my daughter's 18-day movie shoot. I took along the fifth volume of the Library of America's collected works of Roth, even interrupting my Year of Reading Roth with a couple of other books so that I could start the first of four titles contained in this volume--only two of them purported novels, about which see my review of The Facts--and be sure of not running ou ...more
Lo abandono. No puedo más. Lo abandono en la página 206. Mañana lo devuelvo a la biblioteca. Si no es que antes alguien me convence de lo contrario. La primera parte que narra como Henry Zuckerman se queda impotente por culpa de un efecto secundario de la medicación para el corazón (y claro, esto evidentemente representa el fin del mundo) me gustó mucho. Mucho. Me encantó el sentido del humor. Odiaba a los personajes, pero disfrutaba odiándolos. No esperaba menos de Philip Roth. Pero la segunda ...more
Charles Adkinson
Jul 31, 2013 Charles Adkinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed sections 1, 4, and 5. In a very unique way, the later sections tied together the seemingly disparate threads of the early portions. For a short(er) novel, there is so much going on, I'm not exactly sure what to even talk about. Near the end, in "Christendom," Zuckerman says something about a "Jew among Gentiles, a Gentile among Jews." Up until this portion of the novel, I didn't see the point in including such massive questions about Jewish identity in a novel that I wanted to b ...more
Jun 05, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who haven't heard of Roth
During grad school, one of my American courses was just devoted to the contemporary American writer Philip Roth. Partially, I enrolled in the course because I needed the credit, but also because I was chagrined to realize that there was a major contemporary I had not even HEARD of. Basically, Roth is important in the tradition of American Jewish authors along with Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud. So, if you want to appear maybe a little prententious and well-read, you should check him out. Or, i ...more
Luke Evans
Jan 01, 2016 Luke Evans rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Terrible, dreadful book. Threw out after 100 pgs
Jul 09, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A post-modern version of Roth's "masturbatory fantasy," posing the question of whether Nathan Zuckerman or his brother Henry would choose sexual impotence or life-threatening surgery. In one version of the story, Henry joins a West Bank settlement (a version of Kiryat Arba, led by a character based on Moshe Levinger), where his personal problem is subsumed by nationalistic militancy (and a pistol in his pants). So even when the story has broader political/historical possibilities, it is still a ...more
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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

Complete Nathan Zuckerman (10 books)
  • My Life as a Man
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Zuckerman Unbound
  • The Anatomy Lesson
  • The Prague Orgy
  • American Pastoral
  • I Married a Communist
  • The Human Stain
  • Exit Ghost

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“And as he spoke, I was thinking, 'the kind of stories that people turn life into, the kind of lives people turn stories into.” 17 likes
“People are unjust to anger — it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.” 8 likes
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