The Breast
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The Breast

3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  2,232 ratings  ·  182 reviews
Like a latter-day Gregor Samsa, Professor David Kepesh wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed. But where Kafka's protagonist turned into a giant beetle, the narrator of Philip Roth's richly conceived fantasy has become a 155-pound female breast. What follows is a deliriously funny yet touching exploration of the full implications of Kepesh's metamorphosi...more
Paperback, 89 pages
Published March 15th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1972)
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American Pastoral by Philip RothThe Human Stain by Philip RothPortnoy's Complaint by Philip RothGoodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip RothThe Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
Best Philip Roth Books
18th out of 36 books — 55 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullersThe Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings by Edgar Allan PoeCat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
Body parts in book titles
57th out of 552 books — 50 voters


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Community Reviews

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Mark
Pre-read: Titilating.

Post-read: The titular tit is a tit.

This has to be something from Roth's early days, thrust later on his publisher who, given Roth's previous track record, must have said, "Sure, why not?"

The stunning characters, the sense of place, the underlying history, and the story itself all combined to make "Conversion of the Jews" one of the best short stories I've ever read.

But this. This is bullshit.

It had potential. A guy awakes one morning to find himself changed into a femal...more
Shannon
I wonder if Philip Roth sat down and said "I want to write Metamorphosis again, but instead of the story being fascinating I'm going to make it mildly amusing. Oh, also, instead of a giant bug, my character is going to turn into a giant boob. Yeah. Good times". I don't know how much of my moderate disliking of this had to do with the actual story, and how much had to do with the fact that I found the image of a giant consious boob repulsive. That being said, I liked that the character figured, e...more
Wyatt
He turns in a boob, literally.:) This isn't a bad book to read when you're sitting around aimlessly for a few days as I am...and it's a nice, short book--obviously a 1,000 page epic about a man-boob would be impressive, but hard to imagine....

What's interesting is the tension between the absurdity of his reality and his tendency to want to think of his predicament as merely allegorical. He has to cede to the logic of his health status and the reality checks of his doctor more than his literary...more
Michael
The only person in America without a six-foot Roth hard-on, I surprisingly enjoyed The Breast, a satire based on those fantastical stories I love so much, Metamorphosis and The Nose, and wherein the hero's absurd misfortune subjects him to despair of an existential nature.

I was particularly pleased at the arc of the comparative-literature-professor-turned-female-breast's psychological metamorphosis, executed with precision ala Kafka, and with both humor and compassion ala Gogol. Most enjoyable t...more
Megan Baxter
I just...did not get this. I didn't dislike it, I wasn't offended by it, I was just...baffled. I don't get what he's trying to do or say or what the deeper hidden meaning might be. If there was one, it flew right over my head.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Manny
The plot is similar to Kafka's Metamorphosis, but he turns into a giant breast rather than a giant cockroach. I just couldn't get with this book. Maybe I'm not interested enough in breasts? But I'm male, so that seems unlikely. I give up.
Redfox5
This is a funny little book. Can't help but feel it would have been much better if he'd been a breast on an actual woman, instead of a free floating breast becuase that just didn't make any sence whatsoever.
Mogulito
I am hesitant to write much right now because id love to read the Metamorphosis before i do, to see the similarities, and differences. But yes it is a sort of ode to Kafka, or a plain steal, though an acknowledged one at that. But I'm not sure if this hasn't been read all wrong; or that maybe i did and in doing so enjoyed it more. I don't think Roth here is really talking about sex, or its various ways of expressing, fantasy etc. I think the metaphor here is the Breast is Fame? And when famous o...more
Elliot Ratzman
It was embarrassing reading this book on the subway with its big pink nipple on the cover. David Kepesh, played by Ben Kingsley in the movie Elegy, is an English professor who wakes up one day and discovers he is a 155 lb six foot breast. Roth is explicit about his references to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Gogol’s The Nose, but I’m not clear about this novella’s purpose. I suppose it’s the early 70s and instead of turning into an alienated bug, Kepesh turns into a sensual object—receiving simp...more
bobbygw
Aug 26, 2011 bobbygw rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of fiction that's unsual and bizarre, fans of Roth, Gogol and Kafka
This is one of my favourite Roth fictions and has the sort of funny, mad, energetic exuberance of Portnoy's Complaint, while being much more absurd and surreal in its premise. There is nothing else quite like it in Roth's oeuvre. From the opening line 'It began oddly.', you are drawn into a first-person story told by David Kepesh, a literary professor (and the principal character who appears in two subsequent novels by Roth, The Professor Of Desire, and The Dying Animal). It is wondefully comica...more
Yordan Eftimov
В Гърдата един преподавател по западноевропейска литература, висок и строен (1.83), в разцвета на силите си (38-годишен) преживява „ендокринопатологична катастрофа" и в резултат се превръща в само четири сантиметра по-къса от предишното си състояние човешка женска млечна жлеза. Но пък снабдена с 13-сантиметрово цилиндрично зърно. И малка промяна в сексуалните фантазии, които иначе си остават интензивни до болка.
Разказвачът дълго време живее с идеята, че просто се е смахнал и ние, то се знае, до...more
Frank
Definire Il seno di Philip Roth un libro grottesco sarebbe dire poco, suonerebbe riduttivo; vediamo allora di fare meglio.

L’operazione editoriale che ha portato all’uscita di questo racconto lungo come libro singolo, sarebbe cosa di per sé alquanto discutibile, se non fosse che nel mio caso ben difficilmente sarei incappato in una storia come questa, essendo piuttosto allergico alle raccolte di racconti. Dunque meglio così.

Grottesco, stravagante, coinvolgente, a tratti drammatico e commovente e...more
Sandra
Questo breve racconto non rientra tra le opere che preferisco dello scrittore americano che considero tra i più grandi in attività. Non mi ha convinto. Soprattutto la prima parte, in cui ho letto null’altro che la “solita” ossessione sessuale che è presente nelle opere di Roth (solo che in questo caso è fine a sé stessa, mentre in altri romanzi, come ad esempio in “lamento di Portnoy”, si inserisce in un contesto diverso, a completare la personalità del protagonista) mi è piaciuta poco. Nel fina...more
Rosalba
Metamorfosi alla Philip Roth. Kafka, Gogol e Swift gli fanno un baffo: "Loro riuscirono a immaginare l'incredibile, avevano il linguaggio, loro, e quei cervelli implacabilmente creativi. Ma io non avevo né l'uno, né gli altri, non avevo niente....". Lui ha reso la parola carne, un uomo trasformato in un'enorme tetta! Va beh Philip è scritto bene, ma non esageriamo col tarlo del sesso..... La poesia di Rainer Maria Rilke la riporto perché ci sta a fagiolo...
Non conoscemmo il suo capo inaudito, e...more
R.
Apr 05, 2008 R. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
Philip Roth's alter-ego David Kepesh (Professor K.) mutates (you can just see Professor X in his Cerebro helmet chuckling) into a breast.

A breast slathered with oils and kept hanging from velvet straps; doctors marvel at K.'s will to live in such a state.

In other words, a novella where Philip Roth congratulates himself for his being ogled by critics, as fawned and fetishized over as the bosom of their mistresses.

He's saying to his critics, "I am your other, better lover - a man whose intellect...more
Aaron
“The Breast” is often compared to “The Nose,” but really it is “Johnny Got His Gun” for the Sex Wars; Cronenberg via “Everything You Want To Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.” Although it is a comedy, there is a touch of body horror to it, particularly in its delight in urges denied and the practical problems of being a giant, anthropomorphic breast. “The Breast” may best be understood like “Our Gang,” the last gasps of Roth’s shadow career as he entered his first lost period and before he...more
Sara
"Dato che mio padre non sa niente di libri, gli spiegai come un mattino, nel racconto di Kafka, Gregor Samsa si risvegli e scopra di essersi trasformato in un enorme scarafaggio; gli feci un riassunto del Naso, raccontai brevemente come l'eroe di Gogol' si svegli senza naso, lo cerchi per tutta San Pietroburgo, metta un'inserzione sul giornale chiedendone la restituzione, "lo" veda camminare per la strada, un incontro ridicolo dopo l'altro, finchè alla fine se lo ritrova al suo posto così com'er...more
Trin
Or, the one where a man turns into a giant breast. I...really have no idea what to say about this book. It's probably just about as creepy and disturbing as you would imagine, and depending on how good your imagination is, possibly a little more so. I think I must have been in a weird mood this week, to have read this and Geoff Ryman's assbabies story both. I have to say that I'd be curious to see Roth go head-to-head with Ryman. Who could disturb readers the most in fifteen rounds?
Bill LaBrie
Self-consciously sensual, riddled by guilt, fighting for objective consciousness while aware of its interpretation of itself, shameless yet shameful, desirous yet self-doubting: A neurotic man becomes a 155-lb neurotic breast in Roth's enjoyable and funny foray into transmogrification.

As he's lying in the hammock improvised in the hospital room to support a giant man-mammary, David Alan Kepesh is troubled by his mother's passing, his desire to return to the womb, his disastrous marriage, his ex...more
Lukasz Pruski
I loved Philip Roth's "Goodbye, Columbus" when I read it some 45 years ago (note to myself: re-read it, as an adult). Alas, I cannot say the same about "The Breast" (1972), a strange tale of a 38 year-old David Kepesh, a literature professor, who turns into a breast. Yes, "a one-hundred-and-fifty-five-pound mammary gland".

"The Breast" is awfully dated. Dated to the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and the mumbo jumbo of the psychoanalytic frenzy of these times. Professor Kepesh is a dedicate...more
Sunny in Wonderland
Read it HERE. Preposterous and provocative, this is absolutely hysterical! An upstanding, normal guy - an English Lit professor - turns into a boob. Then he becomes a sex-crazed maniac, wishes for madness, wishes for privacy, wishes for sanity, wishes for fame and fortune - all while he, The Breast, is strapped in a hammock in a hospital.
Jay
After taking aim at Nixon in "Our Gang", Roth takes aim at, well, a lot of things in "The Breast". This retelling of "The Metamorphosis" has the protagonist turning into something not a vermin, then convincing himself he is crazy. In parts funny and sad, this short novella left me confused in the end, not surprising given the subject.
David Schwan
A post modern version of Kafka's Metamorphosis. This is both humorous and quite serious. The protagonist cannot completely decide what reality is and is deeply confused. This book questions gender at a time when people were just beginning to ask questions about gender. The later half of the book was more interesting than the first.
Semnebune
Dacă un bărbat s-ar trezi peste noapte transformat într-un sân imens, am putea să-l numim nebun ? Depinde, dacă noi suntem destul de zdraveni la cap să pătrundem în mintea lui. Pentru că asta e ideea în cartea lui Philip Roth – Sânul, o metamorfoză neașteptată care îl face pe un profesor de literatură să involueze într-un sân. Treptat, ajunge să se transforme într-un sân. Un sân care este privit cu amuzament și îngrijorare de cei din jurul profesorului David Kepesh. Și ca să nu uit, personajul p...more
Saverio Mariani
Anche se può sembrare tanto alla moda, grazioso e deliziosamente punitivo, mi rifiuto di credere che sono quel che sono perché quel che sono è ciò che ho voluto essere. La realtà è più grandiosa. La realtà ha più stile.
Philip Roth

(Altro - piccolo - capolavoro di Roth.)
Andrew Schirmer
Kafka's "Transformation" re-imagined by Roth. The point seems to be that male sexual desire cannot be crushed, even if the man in question is turned into a 154 lb breast. Short, funny, and certainly worth the twenty minutes it takes to read it.
roberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt
first thing i've ever read by phil. lovely. fantastic. great. this novella can be tackled easily in one sitting. its funny and very touching. the main guy turns into a giant breast and makes loads of references to Metamorphasis. good read.
Allie Walker
Piliph Roth è uno degli scrittori statunitensi più noti e premiati di una generazione di scrittori prolifici e disincantati. Autore di numerose opere, prolifico scrittore dalla penna pungente e scandalosa, spesso autobiografiche. Esordisce con “Addio, Columbus e cinque racconti”, un’opera composta da sei racconti in cui Philip ostenta il suo stile ironico, colto e intriso di condizionamenti culturali: la psicanalisi, il laicismo ebraico e la satira del contemporaneo.

Il seno, un racconto del 1972...more
Anastasia
Eh, ma La metamorfosi è tutta un'altra cosa.
Lei sta lassù e tu stai quaggiù, tettina mia.
Ma si apprezza il tentativo: a tratti(ni) divertente, per tutto il resto dimenticabile.
Rachel (Sfogs)
What a weird book. It wasn't even very good, just a guy ranting on and on and on... after he turns into a breast. I don't get why this book is on the 1001 books list.
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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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American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman

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“For all that I announce at intervals that I want to go mad, it is apparently impossible: beyond me, beneath me. It took This for me to learn that I am a citadel of sanity.” 0 likes
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