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Portnoy's Complaint

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  37,467 Ratings  ·  1,878 Reviews
The famous confession of Alexander Portnoy, who is thrust through life by his unappeasable sexuality, yet held back at the same time by the iron grip of his unforgettable childhood. Hilariously funny, boldly intimate, startlingly candid, Portnoy’s Complaint was an immediate bestseller upon its publication in 1969, and is perhaps Roth’s best-known book.

Portnoy's Complaint n
Paperback, 274 pages
Published May 18th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1969)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Best Books of the 20th Century
323rd out of 6,652 books — 44,866 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 1960's
45th out of 751 books — 1,148 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 02, 2010 Malbadeen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sarah's other pervey friends
Recommended to Malbadeen by: Sarah (what a perv)
It's recently been brought to my attention that my book reviews frequently are not actually about the book. And I'm wondering why would you want to know about the book when all you have to do is click on the little blurb about the book and then get on with the fascinating reading about...oh, say where I bought my milk last Tuesday or my fondest/most traumatic childhood memory, etc, etc.
And, yet. I aim to please so here is my sincere attempt to tell you something about this book. It (the book) go
Glenn Sumi
21 Random Thoughts After Reading Philip Roth’s Classic Portnoy’s Complaint 46 Years After Its Controversial Publication

1. I’ve read three or four Philip Roth books, but how have I never read this, which catapulted him to literary fame – or at least notoriety and celebrity – in the late 60s? Everyone's read it! Even Don Draper!

2. The young Roth sure was funny. We're talking laugh out loud, text-your-best-friends-favourite-lines, nearly pee your pants funny.

3. The guy was also rude and crude and….
Jan 27, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who are adventurous with offal
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Shelves: 1001-books
Earlier today I grossly contradicted myself by stating that I'd enjoyed all the books I'd read which were written by Philip Roth. Then I realised I'd forgotten about Portnoy's Complaint.

There is a school of thought which says to write well you have to write about what you know. On that basis I know I definitely did not like this book, although that unfortunately does not guarantee that I will excel at writing about it. With that in mind Philip Roth is official King of writing about what you know
I have a vague memory that when I first read "Portnoy's Complaint" as a teenager -- I was probably 16 or 17 at the time -- I either carried my paperback copy with me to my grandmother's condo, or perhaps just mentioned to her that I was reading the book. What a mistake. She was displeased with my choice in reading material, and wasn't shy about letting me know. This was many years before Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize, making him somewhat more respectable to the American Jewish community. To ...more
Σύνδρομο Πόρτνοϊ: «Διαταραχή κατά την οποία έντονες ηθικές και αλτρουιστικές ορμές συγκρούονται αδιαλείπτως με ακραίες σεξουαλικές επιθυμίες, συχνάκις διεστραμμένης φύσεως».

Πρωταγωνιστής στο βιβλίο είναι ο Πόρτνοϊ, ένας άντρας-παιδί, εργένης, διανοούμενος, με μανία για το σεξ, ενοχικός και με ένα εσωτερικό διχασμό αποτέλεσμα της αμερικανοεβραϊκής του προέλευσης, παραληρεί στο γραφείο του ψυχαναλυτή. Προσκολλημένος στις ερωτικές φαντασιώσεις των εφηβικών του χρόνων, αφηγείται τα περιστατικά που κ
G.R. Reader
Feb 19, 2014 G.R. Reader rated it did not like it
Portnoy's Complaint was my first husband's favorite book, and he used to quote from it all the time. When we got divorced (it wasn't amicable), my lawyer asked how I'd feel about using that fact in court. I was strongly tempted but told him after careful consideration that it was below the belt.

As it turned out, my instincts were sound. The judge knew Philip Roth personally, and it would have been a disaster. I only discovered this several years later and was amazed at what a close call I'd had.
I'm in the mood for this now and it's reading like a breeze. God, it's probably shameful to admit that I AM PORTNOY, but it would be just like me to say that very thing and mirror the guilt of the guy in the book. You wish your parents could read this, especially my neat freak, worrywart mom. I think a lot of Catholic households and Jewish households are not a lot different. This shit is funny and real and insightful. If the rest of the book is as good as the first 50 pages then we shall be quit ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: constipated older Jewish men
Recommended to Mariel by: masterbators
I would have walked away in the conversation at the point of Portnoy proclaiming that he slept with the women that he did (anyone who would have him) as a way of conquering America. Essentially those who would not have him like historically against Jewish peoples (dude, you work for the mayor and are educated! You do what you want!). I am not Jewish and I wasn't alive in the '60s. Somewhere anyone is going to feel like that they don't belong. What I really liked about Portnoy's Complaint is the ...more
Lubinka Dimitrova
Although I definitely enjoyed it more than Bukowski's Women, I've come to realise that books about middle-aged male Americans who spend their time navel-gazing and contemplating their relationship with their penis is probably not my cup of tea. The book was fun, but I strongly suspect that if it weren't for the narrator, I might have never finished it. Ron Silver is a brilliant reader, I doubt that I would have enjoyed the story more even if Roth himself was whispering it in my ear.
Jr Bacdayan
May 30, 2015 Jr Bacdayan rated it liked it
Hey, Roth! What’s with the smug smile on that face of yours? What’s with that satisfied look? You think you’re now a goy or something? Are you thinking of a shikse or something? Are you high? You think just because you wrote a bunch of anti-semitic, auto-erotic stuff you’re some bigshot? What’s the sense with that piece of crap? Don’t you dare turn your back on me you balding Kike! You wanker! You kosher prick! You… oh, where’s the sense in this? Come on, mate. Is this really just to ridicule so ...more
Portnoy’s Complaint was on my radar when I watched my first episode of the ABC The Book Club. The book was Marieke Hardy pick of a classic and it received such high praise by the whole panel, describing it as funny, awkward, rude and a work of a genius.

Portnoy’s Complaint is a one sided conversation between Alex Portnoy and his psychoanalyst, of growing up in a Jewish household with loud, workaholic and overprotective parents, his sexual awakening, his career and his failure to commit to a lasti
Jan 09, 2009 Yulia rated it it was ok
It's a miracle: I've finished this thing, this book. I thought to read the end as a commenter noted it was a shaggy dog story, which made me wonder what the punch-line was, but as I read about this woman he called "the monkey," I became so furious in how he wrote of her with such hatred that I had to know more about their relationship, which took me back another section, and then another, till I'd finally been led to read the entire dang book.

And while I was sure I'd write something hateful abo
MJ Nicholls
Sep 08, 2012 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, merkins
The definitive self-hating Jew novel. A searing literary stand-up performance par excellence. Woody Allen meets Bill Hicks. Explains where the famous inbuilt neurosis in New York Jews comes from. A brutal, universal portrayal of family life. The funniest thing I have read in a long long time. Every young man in his twenties tries at some point to write this novel and fails. Wonderful. Not a work of remarkable human insight and depth, but this is Philip Roth: the psychopathology of sleaze, if you ...more
Roth sei tutti noi (me)

Un lungo monologo di un giovane ebreo newyorchese, alla fine degli sessanta, steso su un lettino di un psicoanalista mentre si lamenta della scombinatezza della propria vita dominata dalle figure genitoriali e da una totale anaffetività che si sublima in una bramosia sessuale infinita. Di questo parla Lamento di Portnoy.

Se avete la (s)fortuna di provenire da una società tradizionalista, con una forte impronta familistica, se avete la (s)fortuna di avere avuto dei genitori
Apr 22, 2016 Simona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roth non finisce mai di stupire e lo dimostra con questo suo ennesimo romanzo che, sebbene non raggiunga i livelli di "Pastorale americana", riesce sempre a dare molto.
Con la sua prosa raffinata e straordinaria, Roth ci racconta la vicenda, il soliloquio, il lamento di Alex Portnoy, un erotomane, un uomo afflitto da molte manie, un uomo combattuto tra il suo desiderio di abbracciare le tradizioni ebraiche e anche quello di rifuggirle, di allontanarsene, anche grazie a una madre onnipresente e u
Marcello S
Sep 20, 2015 Marcello S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zeno Cosini in acido.
Dissacrante, ossessivo, complesso.
Chissà come dev’essere stato leggerlo nel ’69.

Oggi è di certo meno sconvolgente sentir parlare di sesso, famiglia e tradizioni ebraiche in maniera così radicale.

Qua e là c’è qualche momento meno godibile o non del tutto riuscito.
A tratti lo segui a stento nei suoi voli pindarici.

Tutto il resto è decisamente notevole. [75/100]
Feb 20, 2008 Kat rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Woody Allen fans
Upon finishing this book, I heard myself say aloud (without warning): "that sucked."

There's a lot to recommend Roth as a writer and I think he's fully in control of what he's doing I just wish he were doing something else blah blah. This book is a 300-page monologue by a character who annoyed the crap out of me. Whatever fabulous edgy points Roth might have been making about the self-aggrandizement and self-congratulatory pseudolessons of psychotherapy, whatever incisive criticisms he may have b
Jan 19, 2016 Cosimo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Non è un problema mio

“Con una vita come la mia, Dottore, mi vuol dire a cosa mi servono i sogni?”

Che cosa mi definisce come essere umano, in prima istanza? La voglia di vivere e di essere libero, sembra affermare Alexander Portnoy, aspirazione che si esprime prevalentemente nell'ambiente creato dal dialogo tra caratteristiche sociali e familiari e desideri e qualità individuali: in questo caso, sessualità, ebraismo, società borghese e intellettualismo. E così la scrittura, sotto forma di monolog
Jan 01, 2015 Paolo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ma di che ti lamenti Alex Portnoy ?

Scusa, sei l'erede prediletto di una famiglia normale che riversa su di te la quasi totalità dell'affetto, delle attenzioni e delle aspettative. Una famiglia che gode di un moderato benessere e non sperimenta lutti prematuri.

Appartieni al popolo che l'Onnipotente ha designato come eletto fra tutti.

Popolo eletto che, in verità, ha passato le sue, senonché i tuoi lungimiranti nonni hanno pensato bene di emigrare da qualche pulcioso shtetl dell'Europa orientale, r
Hugo Emanuel
Feb 06, 2013 Hugo Emanuel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, owned
Já me tinha deparado inúmeras vezes com o nome de Roth. Tais menções vinham muitas vezes acompanhadas da opinião de que Roth é o "maior romancista americano vivo" e que captura magistralmente o que são muitas vezes referidos como "os problemas de assimilação e identidade dos judeus dos Estados Unidos". No entanto, também já tinha me deparado com tais elogios feitos a Saul Bellow, um autor que considero monótono e desinteressante, pelo que estava algo céptico em relação á obra de Roth. Um dia des ...more
Nov 07, 2008 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults; Guys; Americana Fans
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Reviewers
This entertaining and smartly written book managed the difficult task of amusing and impressing me. The protagonist, too Jewish to be American yet, in the end, too American to be Jewish, reeled me in with his humorous, potent stream of consciousness that tapped into my own musings and assured me that I'm not alone in dwelling upon, uh, inglorious imagery.

The humor comes across at times like stand-up comedy. You can see, then, how easily the author's concept could have gone flat. And so it would

Funniest book I have ever read. Bar none. I never, NEVER laugh out loud while reading and I was literally howling several times as I read this.

It's so awful and so true.

Teenage sexual obsession/repression (isn't it funny how the two go together) and religious guilt/ political guilt (ditto) have been linked before, but never as desperately, bitterly funny as this.

I always used to wonder why "realistic" novels about adolescence don't talk about masterbation. I mean everybody does it, right? And
Jan 25, 2015 Fionnuala rated it really liked it
Smart, funny, outrageous, and totally irreverent concerning parents and religion, and sex, of course. For 1969, at least. And even though there have been reams of material written since about these subjects, this book doesn't feel dated. However Roth wasn't the only one tackling such subjects at that time, although he was probably the funniest. In the early sixties, in conservative catholic Ireland, John McGahern braved the wrath of the entire country when he dared to state some nasty truths abo ...more

Alexander Portnoy é um jovem advogado de 33 anos, com uma inteligência superior à média, nascido e criado nos EUA no seio de uma família judaica tradicionalista. A família é dominada pela figura da mãe, uma dona de casa perfeita, que parece dotada de super-poderes. O pai, funcionário de uma seguradora, angaria clientes e faz cobranças em bairros pobres, actividade que o mantém sob permanente pressão… mental e intestinal. Sim, o pobre homem sofre de uma obstipação crónica, resistente a qualquer m
За пореден път се смях, а в следващата секунда вече се колебаех дали не е всъщност адски сериозно онова, което Алекс разказва. Бях готова да преписвам пасажи, но те някак губят колоритността си и своите безумни значения, извадени от контекста. Рот просто трябва да бъде четен бавно и внимателно, дори тогава, когато сякаш ползва изразните средства на кой да е случаен хамалин. Ползва ги, наистина. Циничността му на места прекрачва границата на добрия вкус (моята май е високо :D), но е факт, че не у ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Regular readers will remember that I'm in the middle of a long-term literary project right now, to read all eleven novels making up Philip Roth's autobiographical "Zuckerman cycle" in order to better understand the Postmodernist Era they discuss, from its start (right around Kennedy's assassination) to its
This book got a snigger out of me here and there, and was funny, though not laugh-inducing, in many places. But that didn't save this from being an absolute slog. The first 50-100 pages, I was enjoying myself. Ah, I thought, what a delightful book, I think I'll enjoy myself! The whole chapter on his masturbatory habits was farcical and fun. And then it was just tangent after tangent after tangent, in which not paying attention for a few sentences meant I ended up being caught in a five-page (wit ...more
Aug 28, 2008 Andrew rated it really liked it
Portnoy's Complaint has become known as "the sex book" by Philip Roth, and without a doubt it is not a book for those squeamish about frank & honest sexual portrayal. The book features Portnoy, a 30-something Jewish man from Newark, NJ apparently unleashing a 300 page tirade on his shrink as he describes his shortcomings in becoming the expectation of a Jewish man. He still struggles with what he deems juvenile, if not downright animalistic, sexual longings and impulses, yet he maintains a p ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 08, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was ok
Recommended to K.D. by: 100 Must Read Books for Men, Time 100, Modern Library Best 100 Novels, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Newark, 1960's to 70's. This is the life, or to be specific, sex-story of Alexander Portnoy from his boyhood to his 30's. He is a Jew and his family transferred from New Jersey to more Jew-friendly Newark when he was a boy. During that time too, his loquacious mother used to threaten him with a knife if he did not want to eat his meal. The same mother used to hold his penis for him to urinate.

The story seems to tell that it was his mother who made him into a person with excessive wandering libid
Si tuviera que resumir ‘El mal de Portnoy’ de Philip Roth en cinco palabras estas serían “sexo”, “judaísmo” y “sentimiento de culpa”. El protagonista, Alexander Portnoy, es el perfecto niño judío, estudioso, obediente y dulce, pero aún así todo esto no es suficiente para su dominante madre, para la que una nimiedad como no terminarse toda la comida del plato es una ofensa personal, una tragedia, una prueba irrefutable de que su hijito es un desagradecido que no valora lo mucho que le quiere su m ...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
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“You can no more make someone tell the truth than you can force someone to love you.” 39 likes
“I am marked like a road map from head to toe with my repressions. You can travel the length and breadth of my body over superhighways of shame and inhibition and fear.” 32 likes
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