Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Portnoy's Complaint

Rate this book
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. Spievogel "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 fur 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 relationship.

274 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1969

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Philip Roth

234 books6,440 followers
Witty and ironic fiction of noted American writer Philip Milton Roth includes the novels Portnoy's Complaint (1969), American Pastoral (1997), and The Human Stain (2000).

He gained early literary fame with the collection Goodbye, Columbus (1959), winner of National Book Award of 1960, cemented this fame with his bestseller, and continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The novels of Zuckerman began with The Ghost Writer in 1979 and include winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In May 2011, he won the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction.


Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
16,749 (25%)
4 stars
23,677 (35%)
3 stars
17,050 (25%)
2 stars
5,918 (8%)
1 star
2,464 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,773 reviews
Profile Image for G.R. Reader.
Author 1 book163 followers
February 19, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Malbadeen.
613 reviews7 followers
November 2, 2010
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) goes something like this:
moms fault
moms fault
moms fault
kinda dads fault too
mostly moms fault
self loathing
Jewish loathing
protestant loathing
protestant awe
more jewish loathing
again with the Protestant loathing
partial reconciliation with perceptions of all things Jewish
attempt at sex
failure at sex
mom's fault

Now that I've, no doubt drawn you into the plot line and compelled you to pick up the book for yourself, let me share with you some of my personal thoughts on the book.
Growing up conservative/fundamentalist(?) Christian, I am no stranger to guilt. As a matter of fact some times I feel that Catholics and Jewish people think they have the market cornered on guilt, well, you know what? taint so. I got some pretty messed up voices going on in my head too, ya know. And maybe I can't articulate my guilt trips into clever phrases or pinpoint experiences but I can tell you that guilt taught me a thing or two.

1. If I don't pick up that clutter someone else is going to have to. When I was younger this meant my mom, whom after setting aside her career as an artist to raise 5 kids and nearly had (maybe did have at one point) a nervous breakdown from the lack of money, the accumulation of clutter and my argumentative nature. In my adult life this means the custodian, whom after leaving Vietnam as an educated person has to toil with 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to send his son (and seemingly only hope at respectability in this career driven society of ours) to college.

2. Flour is not cheap and ingredients are not to be wasted! oh, the shame, the shame of ruining yet ANOTHER batch of gingerbread men.

3. pre-marital sex is BAD. BAD! BAD! BAD! Offering yourself as anything less than a virgin to your someday husband is tantamount to giving someone a big bag of steaming compost with worms crawling through it for their birthday. The only thing worse than pre-marital sex is being gay.
*it might be worth noting here that there was some guilt reprieve and gargantuan amounts of titillating conversation regarding what exactly you COULD do, short of having sex but even that was fraught with the anxiety of "accidentally" having sex. and I"m still a little hazy on whether or not I can participate in oral sex. I'm assuming it's a no go, while (okay Catholics and Jewish people, I have to admit I've got it easier here) masturbating is okay AS LONG AS one doesn't start fantasizing about others while masturbating. Which you gotta hand it to them (wa-ha-ha) is that not the purest form of masturbation?

4. Paper is meant to be used and re-used and re-used and re-used and re-used. Buying new paper is an intolerable opulence reserved for gluttonous pigs and ONLY gluttonous pigs.
etc, etc, etc,

so, did I find Portnoy's excessive guilt to be unreasonable or unreadable, not at all. I found it to be hilarious in it's familiarity. Matter of fact I found most of the book to be hilarious, which I hadn't anticipated. Some passages that I found particularly amusing are as follows:

-when he ate pudding he shouldn't have, "Well, good Christ, how was I supposed to know all that, Hanna? Who looks into the fine points when he's hungry? I'm eight years old and chocolate pudding happens to get me hot.

-Talking to his "doctor", "All I do is complain, the repugnance seems, bottomless, and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe enough isn't enough. I hear myself indulging in the kind of ritualized bellyaching that is just what gives psychoanalytic patients such a bad name with the general public"

-a child hood sexual fantasy, "Her favorite line of prose is a masterpiece, 'Fuck my pussy, Fuckface, till I faint.' when I fart in the bathtub, she kneels naked on the tile floor, leans all the way over, and kisses the bubbles."

-While observing "goys" at the skating rink, "Jesus, look how guiltlessly they eat between meals! what girls!"

-about a non Jewish girlfriend, ".....played polo (yes, a games form on top of a horse!)

But humor aside, I also appreciated some other aspects of the story. I loved the line, "What I'm saying, Doctor, is that I don't seem to stick my dick up these girls, as much as I stick it up their backgrounds-as though through fucking I will discover America". I remember standing alone in NYC (coming from a small town in Oregon) at age 17 and seeing the enormous variety of people and thinking how great it would be to be with the deaf man, the black man, the man in a wheel chair, the businessman, etc,etc,etc. Thinking how much I would KNOW if I could be with all of them (not simultaneously - gross! and not to worry, mom-should you come across this- I wasn't thinking sleep with them, just dates ya know, just some museums trips and a dinner here or there. okay maybe some light petting too, but really that's as far as that fantasy went). In the end I didn't broaden my horizons that way, I ended up dating one guy. One very nice Jewish boy. But still, I like the idea.

And finally I'd like to say that I think I damn near cried at one point near the end and yes, I did also nearly cry this week when I saw a mud flap of that silhouetted naked lady because I so hate the "ideal" that society feels so comfortable imposing on us less than "perfect" females, and I was a little chocked up when my son said, "I like having you for a mom", and all of this near teary-ness might indicate a certain hormonal fluctuation orrrrrrrrr it might indicate that I'm a sensitive genius? consider. Regardless, I felt sorry for the pathetic schlep at one point.

And thus concludes my thorough look at Portnoy's complaints plot points as well as the ubiquitous ME, ME, ME portion of my review.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,529 followers
May 23, 2018
Updated May 22, 2018: R.I.P. Philip Roth. Author of some of the defining works of the late 20th century (and even some of the early 21st). What a magnificent second act you had... and what a legacy you leave behind.


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…. hmmm…. okay, maybe I shouldn’t text that… um… where were we? Yes, he was rude and crude, shocking even by today’s standards.

Then again…

4. It’s not really Roth saying these wild things but a fictional character – namely, Alexander Portnoy, a 30-something Jewish civil liberties attorney who’s got one big fat mother complex. Incidentally, Roth was born the same year (1933) and in the same city (Newark, NJ) as his protagonist. But they're not the same guy, got it?


5. In a brilliant structural device, the book is essentially Alex’s extended monologue to his psychotherapist, with Alex trying to find out why he’s so screwed up. His rant includes recounting his extreme sexual fantasies and fetishes, memories of chronic childhood masturbation habits and how he feels his persistent bachelorhood (he’s in his 30s! and not married! and likes shiksas!) is tied to his ambivalent relationship with his (castrating!) mother. So, we wouldn’t want to censor or harshly judge a fictional Jewish character’s scabrous stream of consciousness, right? (Two words, folks: Leopold Bloom.)

6. Oy gevalt! Fictional guilt-inducing Jewish mothers seem a lot like guilt-inducing Asian mothers.

7. Back then, it must have been a really big deal to be in your 30s and unmarried.

8. Just when you think “Oedipus complex,” Roth/Portnoy mentions Oedipus.

9. Woody Allen, who was doing stand-up at the time, must have been influenced by this book, not just in the artist-talking-to-therapist scenes but in the Jew-goes-to-WASP-girlfriend's-home-for-Thanksgiving scene in Annie Hall.

10. Even with the psychoanalyst set-up, Roth cleverly gets in stuff Portnoy wouldn’t necessarily tell his therapist, but which is richly detailed and adds to the novel’s texture. Smart.

11. The infamous liver scene makes the pastry-shtupping in American Pie (surely an homage) seem tame.

12. How funny is it that the book was published in 1969? 69, get it? (groan)

13. In 1969 it was way more acceptable to be misogynistic and homophobic in print. Not so funny today. (different kind of groan)

14. As Katie Roiphe points out in an excellent essay from In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays, today’s literary male novelists (Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon) sure don’t write about sex the way Roth, Updike and Mailer did when they were their age.

15. There's an exuberance and a vitality to this novel that’s missing from a lot of the current literary fiction I read.

16. The book’s baseball sequences, memories, what have you… I’m not even especially fond of the game, but Roth writes them with affection, tenderness and grace. And his portrait of middle-aged Jewish husband-dom is as sensitive and moving as his depiction of that era's discreet anti-Semitism is disturbing.

17. Not everything works (a trip to Israel, for instance), but damn this is still a fine book.

18. It was adapted into a movie starring Richard Benjamin (who also starred in his Goodbye, Columbus), and I recall seeing scenes from it late at night on TV, but it looked overdone and (checking the internet) it got really mixed reviews. So: thanks, but no thanks.

19. If you do want to see a movie that captures Roth’s anarchic, self-obsessed spirit, check out Alex Ross Perry’s Listen Up Philip, which pays homage to the man in the central character, title and even the font used in the marketing.

20. I’ve always been fascinated by those American bestsellers from the late 60s to early 70s by writers dealing with the fallout of the sexual revolution. Now I’m curious about John Updike’s Couples and Erica Jong’s Fear Of Flying.

But mostly…

21. I want to read more Philip Roth.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,291 followers
April 28, 2023
Cînd Philip Roth a trimis la tipar Complexul lui Portnoy, șansa lui de a primi premiul Nobel a devenit egală cu zero. Cartea a stîrnit un scandal uriaș. Au protestat puritanii, indivizii lipsiți de umor și specialiștii în simbolismul Cabbalei. „Aceasta este cartea pentru care s-au rugat toți anti-semiții să se publice”, a exclamat savantul Gershom Scholem într-o recenzie furibundă.

Mulți jurnaliști au formulat ipoteza că Philip Roth și-a pierdut mințile. Alții au vestit că se află deja la ospiciu, în cămașă de forță. Cîțiva rabbini au cerut eliminarea lui din societate. Ce-i drept, autorul nu-i portretizase cu prea multă simpatie în cartea de față (cf. pp.71, 185-186). Romanul a devenit bestseller: în 1969, s-au vîndut 450.000 de exemplare.

Există romane în care eroul se spovedește (și se justifică) în fața unui judecător, cel mai cunoscut e Lolita, romanul lui Nabokov, dar n-aș trece nici peste Hocus pocus al lui Kurt Vonnegut jr. În Complexul lui Portnoy, protagonistul se spovedește unui psihanalist, preotul de tip nou al secolului XX, și așteaptă un diagnostic precis. Philip Roth folosește ca epigraf al cărții un pasaj din eseul „Penisul descumpănit”, publicat de psihologul O. Spielvogel într-o prestigioasă revistă internațională de psihanaliză, pasaj care descrie esența suferinței eroului (Alex e clientul lui Spielvogel):
„Pacientul nu obține o satisfacție sexuală reală nici din fantezii, nici din actul erotic în sine, acestea provocîndu-i, mai degrabă, un sentiment covîrșitor de rușine și groaza de a nu fi pedepsit [prin castrare]” (p.5).

Alex Portnoy nu propune ��asociații libere”, ci își povestește, furios pe sine și pe umanitate, viața: a împlinit deja 33 de ani, vîrsta întrebărilor fundamentale. Chiar dacă în fața unui psihanalist poți folosi toate cuvintele din vocabular, limbajul e obscen și, de la un moment încolo, plicticos. Povestea capătă miez abia în partea a doua, cînd Alex Portnoy a devenit funcționar la Primăria din New York și a avut cîteva experiențe erotice adevărate (Kay Campbell = Dovlecel, Sarah Maulsby = Pelerinul, Mary Jane Reed = Maimuța).

Sigur, romanul e sfidător și excesiv. Dar a fost publicat în epoca „eliberării sexuale” (anii 60-70 ai secolului trecut) și, prin problematica lui, a contribuit la înțelegerea faptului că, în viața omului, erosul are un rol mult mai important decît credeau puritanii și moraliștii de ambe sexe. Prin glasul lui Portnoy, se răzbună secole întegi de reprimare sistematică a sexului și trupului.

Romanul lui Roth este, desigur, și o bășcălie la adresa psihanalizei și a modei de a merge, ori de cîte ori simți o jenă în zona amigdalei cerebrale, la un specialist reputat. Dacă nu sesizezi ironia ascuțită a autorului, e ușor să interpretezi greșit cartea, să confunzi ficțiunea cu realitatea.

Dar ce caută sărmanul Portnoy la psihanalist? Nici el nu știe prea bine. Nu a avut o copilărie traumatizantă (exagerează), a fost premiant, a constatat că are un IQ de 158, cît al lui Einstein, a prins o slujbă onorabilă. Faptul că părinții (posesivi, firește) l-au bătut la cap, uneori, nu e un motiv pentru a deveni un nevropat. Nimeni nu face o nevroză numai fiindcă a fost chemat insistent la masă, deși se îndopase cu prăjituri în oraș și avea dureri de stomac.

Pînă la urmă, Complexul lui Portnoy consemnează căutarea zadarnică a unui vinovat inexistent. Revolta lui Alex nu are o sursă precisă. E viscerală. Mă îndoiesc că doctorul Spielvogel va reuși să-l vindece...
Profile Image for Guille.
755 reviews1,538 followers
June 30, 2019

Si queremos creer al autor, El mal de Portnoy (también pudiera ser El lamento de Portnoy, ambas cosas es la novela y ambas acepciones tiene el Complaint inglés) no tenía como objeto ningún tipo de catarsis judío-parental sino una liberación de formas narrativas tradicionales. Puede ser, no está bien contradecir a quien, desgraciadamente, ya no puede defenderse, pero creo que se lo tuvo que pasar estupendamente arremetiendo contra una cierta forma de sentir judía, desconozco si alejada o no de la suya.
“personas tan desagradables como yo: hombres asustados, a la defensiva, que desprecian su propio ser, desalentados y corrompidos por la vida en el mundo de los gentiles. Fueron los judíos de la Diáspora, los judíos como yo, quienes se dejaron llevar por millones a las cámaras de gas, sin levantar un dedo contra sus verdugos, sin ocurrírseles derramar su sangre para defender sus vidas. ¡La Diáspora!”
Estamos en los años 60 y lo que entonces era considerado sucio o repugnante en cuestión de sexo quizás ya no lo sea tanto o ya no nos asombre de la misma manera, y aun así la polémica siempre perseguirá a este lujurioso Alexander Portnoy, abogado judío, de gran inteligencia y éxito profesional, obsesionado con el sexo con chicas shikse, no judías, que poseen el halo de depravación que les confiere ser el oscuro y prohibido objeto de deseo que se les atribuye en su comunidad y, por tanto, el camino más corto para huir de su condición judía, adicto a la masturbación compulsiva y al sexo oral, alérgico al compromiso de fidelidad que casi siempre se impone en la pareja (“toda chica, por deliciosa y provocativa que haya podido parecerme, acabará resultándome más familiar que una rebanada de pan” ), sentimentalmente escéptico…
“¿Qué amor? ¿Es eso lo que une a todas esas parejas que conocemos, las que se toman la molestia de unirse? ¿No será más bien la debilidad? ¿No serán más bien la comodidad y la apatía y la culpa? ¿No serán más bien el miedo y el agotamiento y la inercia, la pura y simple falta de redaños, muchísimo más que ese "amor" con el que los consejeros matrimoniales y los compositores de canciones y los psicoterapeutas andan siempre soñando?”
… apóstata y crítico con todo lo específicamente judío (“Ni se me pasaba por la cabeza que se pudiera uno beber un vaso de leche con el sandwich de salami sin ofender a Dios Todopoderoso” ), sin que ello signifique ningún tipo de sintonía con el cristianismo al que califica de estupidez supina, y patológicamente propenso a culpar a su madre, una “máquina de generar preocupaciones” , por endosarle para siempre su quisquillosa conciencia moral, y a su débil y estreñido padre por haberle dejado en sus manos sin proporcionarle ningún modelo masculino que le sirviera de contrapeso a la castradora figura de su madre.
“¿Qué tenían esos padres judíos, qué, para hacernos creer a los judiitos jóvenes, por un lado, que éramos unos príncipes, únicos en el mundo, como los unicornios, genios, más brillantes que nadie nunca y más guapos que ningún otro niño de la historia?... Redentores, pura perfección, por un lado; y, por el otro, torpes, incompetentes, inconscientes, desamparados, egoístas, malvados comemierdas, pequeños ingratos.”
Y qué mejor forma de sacar todo lo que llevaba dentro, ya que siendo judío la confesión quedaba totalmente descartada, que el desahogo sin censuras ni tapujos que favorece un psicoanalista. Aquí tenemos, por tanto, a Alexander Portnoy tumbado en el diván, incapaz de manejar su vida, abrumado por el deseo vergonzante, con su conciencia como principal enemigo e invadido por la culpa en un monólogo delirante, sucio, perverso, provocativo y, mucho he tardado en decirlo, divertidísimo.
“… el detalle del suicidio de Ronald Nimkin que más me llamó la atención fue la nota para su madre que encontraron prendida a su amplia camisa de fuerza, a esa bonita camisa deportiva tan rigurosamente almidonada. ¿Sabe lo que decía? Adivínelo. El último mensaje de Ronald a su mamá. Adivínelo: Ha llamado la señora Blumenthal. Que no te olvides de llevar las reglas del mah-jong a la partida de esta noche en su casa.”
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,149 reviews1,682 followers
September 8, 2022

Richard Benjamin è Alex Portnoy in “Portnoy’s Complaint”, il film del 1972 diretto da Ernest Lehman.

Ma di che si lamenta questo Alex Portnoy, perché la mena per duecento e passa pagine con questa geriamiade in odor di lamentazione?
Che poi il suo psych, il dottor Spielvogel, kasher anche lui ça va sans dire, quando avrà finito di sganasciarsi dalle risate per il suo racconto – perché Philip/Alex fa davvero ridere – a proposito, ma è lo stesso Philip Roth che ha scritto quella meraviglia intitolata Pastorale americana?! Qui, tutt’altro tono, tutt’altra musica – viene da credere che il suo terapeuta finirà per suicidarsi con un bel tuffo dalla finestra (come nella tradizione del miglior Woody Allen).

Karen Black è la Scimmia. Il film uscì in Italia con il titolo “Se non faccio quello non mi diverto” (no comment).

Alex cresce nella tipica famiglia ebrea cocco di mamma e cocco di papà in quanto maschio e primogenito, con la sorella Hannah (maggiore di quattro anni) decisamente relegata in seconda posizione.
E allora: nessuna famiglia disfunzionale, nessuna anaffettività, niente separazioni divorzi abbandoni, niente di tutta quella roba con la quale uno psicoterapeuta va a nozze. Caso mai, il contrario: eccesso d’amore e troppa attenzione. Perché si lamenta il trentatreenne Alex Portnoy? (Che caso mai sarebbe sua sorella a doversi lamentare).

La mamma e il papà di Alex sono Lee Grant e Jack Somack (probabilmente l’unico attore americano a non avere foto su IMDb.

Non ho nessun valido motivo per piangere, ma in questa famiglia ognuno tenta di strappare un buon pianto almeno una volta al giorno.
Famiglia Melodramma più che famiglia Portnoy: pianti, urla, porte sbattute, maniglie divelte, minacce a mano armata (coltello seghettato del pane), sdegnose alzate da tavola, con tanto affetto e amore. Una perfetta parodia del Re Lear, come ammette lo stesso Alex, e quindi lo stesso Philip.
La madre racconta ad Alex tredicenne che avrebbe potuto sposare un altro pretendente, il re della senape a New York – con ciò sottintendo che per suo marito ha rinunciato a ben altro agio di vita – e Alex si chiede come sarebbero state diverse le cose con un altro padre: nel senso che il genitore avrebbe potuto essere diverso, ma l’esistenza di Alex non sarebbe mai stata in dubbio.

Portnoy si lamenta.

Qual è il problema di Alex - a parte l’onanismo incallito, a parte cominciare a menarsi l’affarino, come lo chiama sua mamma con gran corruccio del piccolo Alex, già quando è ancora avvolto nella placenta? Vuole una donna, soprattutto se “shiksa” (non ebrea), vuole smettere di tremare di fronte ai torbidi godimenti, è per questo che si lamenta? O è l’essere ebreo cresciuta in una famiglia ebrea? Oppure, si tratta della vergogna, sentimento più crudele di aprile, il più crudele dei mesi?
Forse invece si tratta di quella cappa familiare che sin da subito spinge e forza il piccolo Alex a essere carino, un bravo bambino, rispettoso e ubbidiente e perbene. Una cappa che asfissia un pochetto, che spinge a tenere le ali rinserrate, a volare basso, pochi grilli per la testa, la vita è soprattutto “sacrificio e privazione”, meglio non farsi illusioni, finestre chiuse, sguardo mai sfrontato, mai orgoglioso e se possibile rivolto verso il basso. Cappa in parte dovuta a mamma e papà e in parte alla loro cultura ebraica.

Roth spinge il pedale, non si tira indietro, non risparmia giochi di parole, cerca, e trova, l’effetto comico, anche ricorrendo alla scatologia come in quelle che si chiamano “barzellette sporche”.

Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,533 followers
December 26, 2021
This is the book that made Philip Roth both famous and scandalous. Portnoy is a mother-obsessed sexual maniac and actually quite hilarious. Who else would have had his character masturbating with a cow liver other than the author of the equally darkly humorous Sabbath's Theater? This book and the reaction to it drives the Nathan Zuckerman series of books which all refer back to the public reaction with equal measures of awe and dismay. The book itself is a classic and extremely well-written as only Roth can write.

If I were to compare Roth to another onanist-obsesses writer, I’d probably choose France’s Houllebecq who can barely string two paragraphs together before whipping it out. However, Roth is truly able to get inside his characters and make them real, living breathing beings. I found that Houllebecq’s characters lacked any depth or even human understanding. They are just masturbatory cogs in a wheel. The wheel itself is well-described, but it is all so nihilistic and fatalist which is one reason why he is a darling to the extreme right who deplore decadence and think that God or their conceptions of right/wrong should be imposed because given freewill, humans will always be depraved. Roth’s view is less cynical. There is evil in the world, but it comes from conscious choices, and not just from the world’s inherent immorality or some antiquated idea of fate.

RIP (1933-2018). One of America's literary giants has left us.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 2 books708 followers
January 7, 2023
This started funny, but the joke went on way too long.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
July 27, 2019
'Enough being a nice Jewish boy. . . Let’s put the id back in yid”—Alex Portnoy

Portnoy's Complaint: "A disorder in which strongly felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature."

I have had a couple intense years of reading Roth, rereading some, but mostly reading much I had not read. Recently Roth died, RIP, and then I read his last four short books, and decided to come full circle back to my (I think it was) first and possibly the most read of his books, Portnoy’s Complaint, which reads almost as if it were a joyous comic farce. As with many other of his books, it begins with a male boy character, Alex, who struggles mightily with his Jewish Newark working class identity, and since he is a teenager, specifically with his parents. Roth, as with most of his other books, does not hide his character’s sexual life; instead he celebrates (and then analyzes, and sometimes problematizes) it in all its Rabelaisian glory.

Portnoy’s Complaint is sort of known as the Great American Novel of Teenaged Masturbation. In this book, Alex Portnoy is not at 14 having sex, but he calls himself “the Raskolnikov of jerking off,” and this is how the book comically opens, focusing on this. There is, later, a lot of sex in the book, usually related humorously—and for the time, but probably still now, for many, shockingly—explicit and what people used to call “foul-mouthed,” but it is clear his more serious subject is what it means to be Jewish in America; while making fun of himself he also satirizes his fellow Jews, sometimes brutally. The sex-obsessed Portnoy is in this tale confessing to his analyst; he is trying to figure out how to be Jewish (or not) in America, exploring these issues through the various women—Jews, gentiles—he is with. The joy of sex, the joys and madness of Jewish life, and atheism, all three topics are persistent themes in Roth across most of his work, and are here from the very first.

It is 1969, and Portnoy’s Complaint emerges after 2-3 fairly tame books from Roth (in comparison, on the explicitness scale) that build his literary reputation, and then this famously “dirty book” explodes (pun intended, sorry) on to the literary scene getting him denounced by Jewish leaders and community, becomeing an instant bestseller and critical smash. The world, or at least America, is going through a sexual revolution: Freedom, man, stop getting hung up on all this religious repression and just Let Go. Love the one you’re with! Alex was a top student, and is, at the time is telling the tale to his therapist, 33, a good liberal, working for Mayor John Lindsay, but is still lost, personally. He struggles, especially in his relationships with women: How can such a (once) good Jewish boy like him get so screwed up?! Maybe it's the endless screwing?

The book tacks back and forth between Alex the masturbator at 14 and Alex the sadly, madly lost sexual libertine at 33, a case of arrested development, one of many many Roth books that would seem to take a look at sex and mortality and cultural identity. To be sexual is for Roth (or is it just many of his main male characters?) to be fully alive—while to have that denied is a form of living death. And yet it sometimes seems to be killing him, even as he obsesses about what it means to be Jewish, and an atheist, in America.

The book begins with a funny look at Alex’s upbringing by a set of neurotic Jewish parents—domineering mother Sophie, nebbish father—where the only thing he seems to have control over is his penis. Fast forward to age 33 where he is alone, childless, serial dating various goyish blond women. He seems to want to rid himself of his Jewish identity! But then, in Davenport, Iowa, he discovers his discomfort with Midwestern Christian America, too, as he visits his girlfriend’s family over the holidays. He doesn't want that life, either. Later in the book he pursues an Israeli Jew; will it be better in Israel, with a “real Jew”? Nope! It’s like a dialectical narrative, going back in forth between being anguished over his cultural background, not wanting to be a traditional Jew, and not wanting to be mistreated as a Jew. But remember, this is—like Salinger’s Catcher—a therapy session, so we are not supposed to see this solely as an affirmation of Alex. Alex is sex crazy, at 33, and all around pretty crazy.

Portnoy’s Complaint I thought was still very funny, in my second reading of it decades later, though it may have been knocked down a peg from my list of Roth’s absolute greats such as the American trilogy (though still I would say it is in the top seven or eight), but it is a manic, often hilarious, sometimes tiring series of rants (interspersed with comic Yiddishisms), a monologue, a confession from a seemingly arrogant, sometimes clearly self-deprecating, lost soul, creating one of the great literary characters of the twentieth century, still a source of shock and outrage and humor; still a “dirty book” and very much a literary accomplishment.
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
258 reviews924 followers
August 29, 2022

One can believe why the novel was shocking, scandalous even at time of release. It's both outrageous and amusing, and quite irreverent when it comes to the widely accepted values. I laughed a lot here, but to tell the truth I was slightly bored at times as well. I've never been to psychoanalytic yet, and I very much hope life would spare me that dubious pleasure in the future too, but the novel reads like you're furtively eavesdropping confessions of an anguished & neuritic, in Woody Allen style, patient to his doctor. Nothing funny to have to confess your personal life to strangers, you could say. It's true obviously, but the way Roth made his protagonist to do that is hilarious, well, mostly. It's a satire of course. On religion, sex, tradition, Jews, parents, upbringing, what that means to be Jew in modern society and how being Jew affects the whole life of our protagonist. Roth is scathing, hard-edged and doesn't give a damn about political correctness, mannerliness and all that jazz called Jewishness, but by Lord how many times one can read about masturbating Alex Portnoy, and not feel fatigued? Poor dick, cough, cough, poor Alex, I mean.
Profile Image for Shovelmonkey1.
353 reviews874 followers
January 27, 2012
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 and his throne is probably made from giant piles of books in which he has written about being himself or a variant thereof.

This book deals with several favorite Roth topics:
Being male (tick)
Being Jewish (tick)
Being an American Jewish Male (tick)
A mild obsession with the penis (tick)
Moderate biographical references throughout his works of fiction thus allowing us to see the author but never really get to know him (tick).

Not fitting into any of these categories, being neither male, Jewish, American or in possession of that vital bit of equipment (penis, not brain before anyone makes jokes) this book did not win me over. A monologue of sexual repression poured forth by the eponymous Alexander Portnoy, a young man who is so tied to the apron strings of his mother that he's only managed to liberate his right hand and his libido. Given the subject matter I think that it would be better dubbed a "manologue" rather than a monologue.

The highlight of the book for many (and this forms a lynch pin of many non Goodreads reviews and critiques) is Alexander Portnoy's sexual adventures with a piece of raw liver. Man meat meets cold meat in a way which might give you disturbing nightmares about visiting the deli. The misused liver is then served up to the family as part of a delicious traditional Jewish recipe later that same day. Gehakte leber anyone? And don't even ask what the special ingredient in the schmaltz and gribenes is!
Profile Image for Luís.
1,857 reviews511 followers
June 10, 2022
The case of an American Jew torn between the perfection imposed by parents and personal freedom touches the universal! Alexander (at least for me) is not the prototype of the living Jew in the United States, suffocated by a severely exemplary education. But the parents choose the route to follow for their son. The latter, who finds this life bland and demanding, who throws herself into the most insatiable sexuality (from his childhood), is a universal being who exists everywhere in the world: he can be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. But, etc., he has doubts about the belief and the importance of this compatibility and these morals; he no longer believes in the foundation of the family or marriage.
And so Alexander's monologue in front of his psychiatrist (the reader rather) continues with a lot of humour and g(Roth)esque. Childhood stories (a "big masturbator") and sex stories (with the Monkey in particular). Alexander hesitates to choose between life according to his family's expectations or the free life that escapes him in the impossibility of making a choice! So he has no experience; he has an image, a pale copy of life. Also, he develops a very pessimistic vision of marriage, a tragicomic vision!
Alexander touches us and captivates us with his vision of things, he does not deny his belonging or hate his parents, but he opposes specific uses or beliefs.
Roth was able to present to us the soul of an American Jew without clichés, with an excellent mastery of his character's character and humour (I would not say the Woody Allen) full of irony (original).
Profile Image for Javier.
217 reviews127 followers
October 18, 2021
En ocasiones, como lector, uno se encuentra en un callejón sin salida. Tu lista de lecturas pendientes, tus autores de cabecera, nada resulta atractivo. Necesitas algo completamente diferente y un poco al azar que abra una puerta donde solo ves un muro. Este ha sido el caso de Philip Roth, que me descubrió la novela norteamericana actual y de paso se encargó de recordarme algo que poco a poco había ido olvidando: la lectura no es (sólo) una actividad intelectual, la lectura es diversión.
Philip Roth representa como nadie (con el permiso de Woody Allen) el paradigma del judío de la diáspora, plantado en la encrucijada de la tradición judaica que intentan inculcarle desde su entorno y la sociedad del país donde vive, en este caso Estados Unidos, en la que quiere integrarse desesperadamente. Buena parte de la extensa obra de Roth, de carácter marcadamente autobiográfico, se mueve en torno a este conflicto, pero su gran sensibilidad para comprender las debilidades del ser humano convierte sus libros en universales.
La sinopsis de El Mal de Portnoy puede asustar: es la supuesta descripción de un trastorno en el que “los impulsos altruistas y morales se experimentan con mucha intensidad, pero se hallan en perpetua guerra con el deseo sexual más extremado y, en ocasiones, perverso. Al respecto dice Spielvogel: «Abundan los actos de exhibicionismo, voyeurismo, fetichismo y autoerotismo, así como el coito oral; no obstante, y como consecuencia de la ‘moral’ del paciente, ni la fantasía ni el acto resultan en una auténtica gratificación sexual, sino en otro tipo de sentimientos, que se imponen a todos los demás: la vergüenza y el temor al castigo, sobre todo en forma de castración.»”
Pero no se trata de una novela psicológica, ni de un retorcido drama sobre las obsesiones sexuales de un enfermo; por el contrario (y de nuevo me acuerdo de las primeras películas de Woody Allen), es uno de los libros más divertidos que he leído. Alexander Portnoy se tumba en el diván de su psicoanalista, el doctor Spielvogel, en busca de una solución para su problema: vive atormentado por sus frustraciones sexuales, por su incapacidad para amar y comprometerse, por su obsesión por las shikses (mujeres gentiles). El texto, de acuerdo con su título original, Portnoy’s complaint (y su primera traducción al español, El lamento de Portnoy) es una larga queja, un monólogo desesperado escrito con un lenguaje un tanto escatológico, lleno de referencias sexuales explícitas, pero muy literario. Como es habitual en Roth, la ironía, el sarcasmo, la autocrítica corrosiva (a veces cruel) están presentes en cada línea. El lamento que Portnoy va desgranando ante su terapeuta es tan ingenioso que en ocasiones llega a parecer un monólogo cómico.
Tengo más marcas que un mapa de carreteras, las represiones me señalan de la cabeza a los pies. Puede usted recorrer mi cuerpo entero, a lo ancho y a lo largo, por súper autopistas de vergüenza e inhibición y miedo.

Producto de una infancia asfixiante dentro de una comunidad judía tradicional, tentado por el paraíso del sueño americano, de una madre neurótica, posesiva y manipuladora y de un padre permanentemente estreñido y secuestrado por su trabajo, Portnoy es una contradicción viviente.
Es un chiste familiar, el día en que estaba yo mirando una tormenta de nieve, por la ventana, de muy pequeñito, y pregunté, muy ilusionado: «Mamá, ¿Nosotros creemos en el invierno?»

Portnoy culpa a su familia y a su entorno de sus miedos y obsesiones, pero a la vez añora ese mundo de certezas que poco a poco se va desvaneciendo.
La gran virtud de este libro es que es tremendamente divertido. Eso debería ser motivo suficiente para leerlo. Pero, además, estamos ante un texto valiente y muy inteligente que, aunque ambientado en una situación y una época muy concretas, trata temas universales (la relación entre padres e hijos, los choques culturales, el sexo, la fidelidad) con los que cualquiera puede identificarse.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,129 followers
September 28, 2020

Alex Portnoy is in therapy. And boy, does he need it!! But rarely has therapy been this funny – at least from the outsider’s perspective.

Why this book was controversial when it was published in the 60s is obvious: it’s brutally honest and confessional about things that were (and sometimes still are) best not discussed in polite company (bowel movements and masturbation are just the tip of the iceberg here – I don’t think there’s a single PC page in this novel). And Roth had the talent to make these topics hilarious – which I’m sure must have confused and freaked out a few prim and proper readers 40-odd years ago. None of this is really shocking now, but I kept trying to imagine my grandfather’s face if he had read this, and I’m pretty sure he would have blushed, coughed and then discreetly buried the conspicuous yellow book under his tomato plants (I think overbearing Jewish mothers sound a lot like overbearing Italian mothers, so I think it would have hit close to home, too).

But reading it in 2020, I can’t help but feel like Roth was ahead of his time in many ways. There is a fearlessness in Roth’s prose in this book, which one might attribute to the fact that this was his debut novel, but even when he wrote things I strongly disagree with (oh, the 60s casual sexism and homophobia…), I couldn’t help but admire the panache. I feel that panache, like the effective use of symbolism, is something that’s not so easily found in more contemporary literature, and that makes me sad, because it’s a quality that breathes life into a story in a very palpable way.

Portnoy is trying to figure out who he is, how his family background and cultural patrimony fit in America. Cultural identity is such an amazingly complex and layered thing, and this long monologue Alex delivers to his therapist is a sometimes horrifying and endearing but always fascinating glimpse into the mind of an all too human mess of a man. Anyone who had to deal with an over-bearing parent will cringe with the familiarity of the Portnoy family dynamics.

I didn't like it as much as "American Pastoral" (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and "The Human Stain" (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)- it's clearly not as sophisticated, but it shows Roth cutting his teeth rather brilliantly. Even if you don't like Alex much, getting to know him so intimately was an unforgettable adventure.
Profile Image for Robin.
484 reviews2,615 followers
February 10, 2017
The title is apt for this book, because the entire thing is a complaint, made by Alexander Portnoy to his shrink. Oh, boy.

Initially I put this on my TBR list because Joe Goldberg, the well-read psychopath in Caroline Kepnes' You and Hidden Bodies lists it as his favourite book. A bit of a twisted road to get to Philip Roth's infamous, sexually explicit work that caused a big splash when published in 1969.

While cleverly written and quite funny in some parts, the rant-like nature of this book got a little tired after a while, and soon it was apparent that the story arc wasn't going anywhere interesting for me.

Portnoy complains mainly about his overbearing Jewish parents (particularly his mother - can you say Oedipus Complex?), his Jewishness, his attraction to shikses, and his inability to pick a nice girl and have a normal relationship. And round and round we go. There are some pretty over the top scenes which depict him wildly masturbating (to successful fruition) while his mother screams from the other side of the door.

This was my introduction to Philip Roth. Yup. And, I'm still willing and interested in reading more. Now, what does that say about me, Doctor?
Profile Image for Gorkem.
140 reviews92 followers
May 20, 2018
Portnoy'un Feryadı, dönemsel olarak bakıldığında neden çok fazla rahatsız edici olabileceği çok net bir şekilde anlaşabiliyor. Cinsel devrim öncesi, bireysel cinsel varoluşun hem algılaması , hem dinsel öğeler, hem de Freudyen bakışı yapılandırma açısından bence özel bir kitap. Bu perspektiften bakıldığında 4 yıldız. Hatta, Oedipus gönderimleri, Portnoy gibi karakter yaratımı ve anlatımı bakımından 5 yıldız bile olabilirdi, eğer 1960'larda ABD'de yaşasaydım.

Şu an için değerlendirdiğimde, Roth'un absürtlük algısı fazla aşırı geldi. Ve çizdiği yan karakterler, yorucuydu.Kitabı okurken, özellikle baş bölümlerde Woody Allen'in filmi izliyormuş gibi keyifle okudum ve sonrasında artık bayacak bir durumda neredeyse American Pie izliyormuş hissi verdi.


Genel anlamda, Portnoy'un Feryadı, benim hiç sevmediğim çok fazla Amerikan ve cıvık cıvık bir anlatıma sahip. Her ne kadar Portnoy dönemsel olarak önemli bir kitap olsa da, Roth'un yüklemeler yaptığı tüm alt metinlere rağmen, Roth'un laubali anlatımı yorucu ve sıkıcı bir hale gelmeye başladı.Ve sonuç olarak da, Roth'u ve kitabı hiç sevmedim.

Amerikan edebiyatına meraklıysanız, okunması gereken bir kitap. Portnoy'u keşke Roth değil de başka bir yazar daha farklı anlatsaydı.

İyi okumalar.

Profile Image for ArturoBelano.
99 reviews287 followers
May 28, 2018
Her zamanki gibi ağır spoiler içerir.

" Kadir-i mutlak tanrı hazretlerini ciddi biçimde rencide etmeden bir bardak sütün yanında bir salamlı sandviç yemeyi bile düşünemezdim. Bir de öyle otuzbiri çekip çekip fışkırtmakla vicdanıma nasıl bir yük bindirdiğimi düşünün hele ! “

Portnoy’un Feryadı edebiyat tarihinin en ağzı bozuk, terbiyesiz ve provakatif eserlerinden biri ki Türkiye’de haklı bir şekilde yargılanıp haksız bir şekilde beraat etmesi bunun göstergelerinden biri. Merak etmeyin ağzının bozukluğu üçüncü sınıf yeraltı edebiyatı argosundan kaynaklı değil ve haklı bir şekilde yargılanması derken ironi yapmıyorum bu eser 1968’in Amerika’sında yazılmış olmasına rağmen 50 yıl sonra bile biz hala bunları ne konuşacak ne de yazacak düzeye gelmiş değiliz. Nihayetinde Türkiye’de cinsellik mevzusu taciz tecavüz zina bermuda şeytan üçgeninde yaşanan, ayıp yorgan altında olur ile deyimleşen bir halet i ruhiyede icra edilmeye devam ediyor ve bu kitabın edepsizliği ve açıklığı maalesef bize fazla. Neyse Portnoy’le birlikte hepimizin ortak feryadına biraz yakından bakmaya çalışalım ve evvala psikanalistin divanından figanını haykıran karakterimizin idi ve onu baskılayan toplumsal yapıya yakından bakalım.

Kitap ilk gençliği ve olgunluğunu 45- 68 yılları arasında Newark’da Yahudi geleneklerinin baskın olduğu bir ortamda geçiren 30’lu yaşların başında başarılı,toplumda saygın bir yere gelmiş, arzuları, dürtüleri ve onu baskılayan yapıların doğurduğu utanç duygusu ile baş edemeyen Portnoy’un psikanalistin divanından yükselen feryadının monolog yöntemi ile aktarılması ile oluşuyor. Bu biçim yazarın anlatmak istediği meseleye cuk diye oturduğunu söyleyebilirim. Biz kitap boyunca psikanalisti görmeyiz ve monolog sorularla bölünmez bu ise karakterin dolup taşmışlığını vurgulamak için işlevsel oluyor eserde.
Portnoy’un Amerika’sı çekirdek ailenin banliyöyede icat olduğu, ilerlemenin, gelişmenin ve toplumsal ödevlerin bireyi belirlediği bir dünyayı ve bir de buna Yahudi inancının şekillendirdiği bir yığın kural ve kaide eklenince karşımıza idi ve süperegosu, istekler ve kurallar çatışması ile bölünmüş öznenin bunalımlarını çıkarıyor. “ Her yerde hazır ve nazır” bir anne, doğru düzgün sıçamayan sigortacı bir baba ve sütyeni ie fantezilere dalınan bir abla. Kitabın temel derdi bastırılmış bir cinsellik olsa da yazar aynı zamanda Mc Carthy Amerika’sının yasaklı konularına da değinmeden geçmiyor. Portnoy’un Komünist eniştesi, okulda söylenen Enternasyoneler ve ileride karakterimizin yürüttüğü insan hakları ve ayrımcılık karşıtı çalışmaları bize Portnoy’un döneme ve zamanın ruhuna uymayan karakterinin diğer yönlerini de çiziyor.

“ Kolumu sallasam ayıplancak bir ayıba çarpıyor. ” Kitap Lineer bir hat izlememekle birlikte bize hikayeyi en baştan anlatmaya başlıyor. Çocukluk anılarında karşımıza “ Tanıdığı en unutulmaz şahsiyet” her şeyi bilen her yerde hazır dominant bir anne karakteri çıkıyor. Örneklerine sıkça rastladığımız oğluşuna prens muamelesi çeken bir anne. Babanın etkisiz eleman olduğu evde her şey anneden soruluyor,oğul annenin yasağı ile şekilleniyor. Bu çocukluk anılarından elimizde bıçağı ile oğlunu tehdit eden ( “ bunun bir şaka olduğunu düşünmemi mi bekliyordu) anne ve bir testisini uzun bir süre kaybetmesi kalıyor ve bu bize kastrasyona götürüyor, hadım edilmemiş ama onun korkusunu hisseden bir çocuk ve ergenliğe adım atınca o cehennemi ortamdan çıkışı çavuşu tokatlamada buluyor hem de durmaksızın. Ancak bu cici, neredeyse Einstein çocuğumuz bir ayıp ve felaket korkusu olmadan bu işi de beceremiyor, masturbasyona başladığına kanser olacağını, karşı cinsle ( Yahudi olmayan bir şikse) ilk yakınlaştığında ömür boyu sakat kalacağını( kay kay bölümü) ve ilk cinsel deneyiminde ( evet yine büyük bir günah, kız Yahudi değil) kör kalacağına inanıyor, bizde de masturbasyon boy kısalığı muhabetti benzeri. Bu cinsel deneyim ve ardından gelen felaket beklentisi kitap boyunca sürüyor, İFK başkanın başsız cesedi, telekızın evinde bulundu, Cemiyetin yeni gözdesi, yahudininkini diplerken boğuldu ve daha ne gazete başlıkları.. “AZAT EDELİM YİD’İ, GERİ VERELİM ONA İD’İ”.

Dört bir yanı tabularla çevrilmiş, yasak günah ayıp ile sınırı çizilmiş hayatında ilk yasağı çiğnemek karakterimizin id ile süperego arasındaki gel gitli ilişkiyi bir üst boyuta çıkartır, bu bölümün öncesinde “Yahudi Yahudi Yahudi ! Kusacağım artık acı ceken Yahudilerin destanından. Hadi bana bir iyilik edin, canımdan aziz halkım ve acılarla dolu mirasınızı acılarla dolu götünüze sokun “ diyerek özgürleşme pratiğinin kökenlerine dair ipuçlarıda vermektedir. Bireyin arzusu ile barışması, olduğu her neyse ona sahip çıkması üst anlatıyı boşa düşürmekle mümkündür( bu kitabın yasaklanması için bir neden daha) ancak bu atarlanmakla olacak iş değil maalesef ki Portnoy bu kimliğe ve baskılanmasına tekrar tekrar dönecektir.Kitap boyunca dikkat çeken bir hususda öteki olmak. Portnoy için en baştan yasaklanmış anglo sakson dünyası bir vahayı temsil etmekte o beyazlar dünyasından kaldıracağı beyaz kadınlar için o lanet Yahudi burnu olmasa neler yapacaktır kim bilir. Özelikle kaykay bölümünde beyaz kızlara yaklaşmak için kurduğu hayaller bana Fanon’un Siyah Deri Beyaz Maskeler kitabını hatırlattı. Arada bu kitabı da önermiş olayım.

Kitabın önemli karakterlerinden biri de Maymun lakaplı manken kızımız. Portnoy arzuladığı bütün fantezilere maymun ile ulaşırken bile “ eksik bir şey” kalır geride. Daha en baştan arzusu sakatlanan ve bunu makulleştirmek için bahaneler arayan karakter saf arzusu ile yüzleşince gerisin geri süperegosuna sığınır ve bunun için elinde güçlü doneler var, kız saf cehalet mirim, New York Belediyesinin parlayan yıldızı bu cehaletle tatmin olacak diye kendini daha ne kadar küçültebilir. Kişinin arzusundan kaçmak için sığınacağı binbir bahane vardır ve halk arasında buna yemedi denir. Neyse ağzımı bozmadan devam edeyim ve sonlara geleyim.

Maymun’un maymun ettiği sevgili Portnoy’umuz soluğu vaat edilmiş topraklarda alır ancak bölümün başlığı sürgündür. O Yahudi çocuk en sonunda öteki olmadığı, herkesin ona benzediği kardeş topraklardadır ancak vaat edilmiş topraklarda da işler yolunda gitmez. O azgın teke İsrail sınırları içinde kaldıramaz, bundan iyi sembolizm mi olur ! . Çünkü ensest büyük bir günahtır ve kimse annesinin kutsal toprağında kaldıramaz. Maymun ile sabahlara kadar üçlü yapar ama İsrail’de en fazla hayırlı bir kısmet buluruz.

Aslında dün kitap kulübünde tartışırken dört yıldız veririm diye düşünüyordum hatta yazının başına geçerken de aynı fikirdeydim ama sanırım konuştukça kendimi gaza getirdim ve edebi yetkinliği bir yana bu açık sözlülüğe beş yıldız vermeden edemedim.

Son olarak; bu kitabı okumak isteyen ya da okuyup Portnoy’a kızan köpüren ya da halden anlayan okur, Horatius’un Antik yunan’da Marx’ın Kapital’in Almanca baskısının önsözünde dediği gibi De Tabula Fabura Narratur..
Profile Image for Daniel.
203 reviews
September 30, 2009
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 be frank, though, even if he had already won the Pulitzer at that time, Grammy likely still would have seen "Portnoy's Complaint," and probably anything else by Roth, as a shanda fur die goyim and best avoided by her grandson. As an already somewhat lapsed Jew at the time, though, I found the novel hilarious, shocking and frighteningly accurate, if a bit exaggerated.

At more than double the age I was then, I decided to revisit "Portnoy's Complaint" for the first time, partly because I want to see if it's held up for me after all these years, and partly to see how it compares to the handful of other Roth novels I've read in recent years, including "The Anatomy Lesson" and "The Plot Against America." So what did I find? As an older and now completely lapsed Jew, I found "Portnoy's Complaint" hilarious, shocking and frighteningly accurate, if a bit exaggerated. It also stands heads and shoulders above the other Roth novels I've read. As far as I can tell, there's "Portnoy's Complaint," and then there's everything else he's written.

I won't bother saying much about the book's content here because either you've already read it don't need to be told about it, or you should read the book, and I don't want to ruin it for you by recounting the best parts. (Frankly, the whole book's great, and singling out the best parts would be a pretty daunting task.) But I do have one caveat: I'm not sure how well this book would resonate with anyone who didn't grow up as a male in a Jewish family in America. I'm not saying other people shouldn't read this book -- they should -- but I am saying that much of both its comedy and its meaningfulness likely will be lost on all readers who aren't male American Jews. As just one small example, only such a reader could truly appreciate the brilliance of a suicide note, from a son to his mother, mentioned in passing:
Mrs. Blumenthal called. Please bring your mah-jongg rules to the game tonight. Ronald

"Portnoy's Complain" is chock-full of profanity (including judicious use of the dreaded c-word), sexual depravity (and not just the famous meat scene), and ethnic stereotypes (including a hilarious depiction of the home life of WASPs). I've seen some people criticize this book for being too much of a comedy, too prone to Borscht Belt-style humor. Well, yes, but so what? The book is intended as a comedy, and the entire novel even ends with a punchline -- and not just any punchline, but a punchline that wouldn't be out of place on a Catskills stage.

Anyhow, there's no need for me to say much more about "Portnoy's Complaint." Plus, I have an easier time writing lengthy reviews of books I hate than ones I love wholeheartedly. Much like Alexander Portnoy, I'm not very good at being positive and upbeat. I'm just glad that the book held up as well as it did for me after all these years.

Sorry, Grammy.
Profile Image for Pietrino.
160 reviews208 followers
March 8, 2021
Seghe, seghe, seghe.
In questo libro ci sono un sacco di seghe. Ve lo ricordate il voyeurismo in combinazione con le seghe di questo libro?
Ecco, dimenticatelo.

Ma Pietro, in questo libro ci sono le stesse cose, come mai qui va bene e li no?
Ormai siamo in confidenza, potete chiamarmi Pie dai.
Ma Pie, in questo libro ci son-

Il libro e’ un lungo monologo di Alex Portnoy in visita dal suo psicologico. La sua vita e’ sempre stata legata da una madre troppo apprensiva e un padre troppo malato immaginario che non riesce a cacare. E per qualche motivo che penso possa ricordare l’adolescenza di tutti noi maschietti, il nostro Alex inizia a partire con le seghe. Ma ragazzi, un sacco di seghe.
Il problema e’ che Alex si vorrebbe fare...che faccio ve lo dico? Ve lo dico dai, tanto si intuisce fin da subito...Alex si vorrebbe fare indirettamente sua madre.

E in questo libro nonostante l'assurdità delle situazioni in cui si caccia il nostro Alex la cosa funziona. Perché?
Perché il protagonista sa molto bene di essere malato e lo accetta raccontandolo con aperta sincerità senza darsi arie borghesi che sa di non avere.

Philip Roth dimostra di essere uno scrittore come si deve. Prende delle situazioni grottesche e super cringe che causano tensione nel lettore, e spezza le tensione con l’ironia esagerata che accompagna tutto il suo monologo. Lolita, ad esempio, segue uno schema simile.
Well done, Philip.

Unica nota stonata - per Pietrino più che per la coerenza della storia - è lo stile di questi capitoli lunghissimi in cui Alex martella il lettore con un enorme flusso di coscienza ininterrotto, che alla lunga mi ha leggermente infastidito. Ma comunque è senza dubbio un libro consigliatissimo.

Anche perché per come la vedo io il Lamento di Portnoy stringe un forte occhioliono e penso sia a tutti gli effetti la versione 2.0 di un altro pilastro della lettura contemporanea del 900 che affronta tematiche simili. Forse meno elegante e con il pedale dell'acceleratore sempre premuto a fondo, ma ho notato una forte somiglianza con...

State pensando allo stesso libro a cui sto pensando io?

Scrivetemelo in un commento qui sotto, che tanto stiamo pensando alla stessa cosa.

Peace Off
Profile Image for Cristian Fassi.
101 reviews168 followers
December 1, 2022

Sono un gran ammiratore dei film di Woody Allen, principalmente quelli dei suoi inizi (anni '70 e '80) dove è più evidente il suo carattere nevrotico (ebreo nevrotico) della sua opera.
Ecco che ho trovato in Philip Roth il suo pari nel mondo della parola scritta, come Woody Allen, Roth non si risparmia in dettagli nel rivelare l'assurdità di molti pregiudizi afferrati in difesa della purezza o delle tradizioni.

Il libro è una narrazione in prima persona, una vasta sessione/confessione di psicoanalisi (ancora Woody Allen) che non rinuncia mai ad un certo tono sarcastico e allo stesso tempo un po' disperato.
Penso che sia importante collocare la pubblicazione del romanzo nel suo contesto temporale: 1969, in coincidenza con la controcultura nei costumi in tutto il mondo, anche negli Stati Uniti.
Recentemente ho visto una serie TV americana chiamata "La fantastica signora Maisel" che mentre leggevo il libro mi tornava in mente per alcuni punti di contatto, l'ambientazione (New York anni 50), i personaggi (ebrei tradizionalisti portati al ridicolo), l'umore (acido ed esilarante) e altri particolari. Sicuramente i creatori di questa serie sono grandi fan di Philip Roth.

Però sono due prodotti molto diversi, mentre la signora Maisel è pro, accompagna l'assurdo da dentro ed è convinta di essere una ebrea tradizionalista (anche se si prende in giro), il signor Portnoy è contro, si tira fuori dal cerchio e critica, vuole smetterla con l'essere ebreo ma si lamenta, come bravo ebreo.

Per chi ha letto il romanzo, così mi sono immaginato la lettera della "scimmia" al sindaco di New York:

"Dir Sindaco,
Deve sapere che il signor Portnoy è innamorato del suo pene. Di nessuno altro che del suo uccello."
Profile Image for Carlo Mascellani.
Author 17 books259 followers
January 26, 2021
Credo possa definirsi la storia di una lotta. Non contro un nemico immaginario, ma contro il tentativo da parte dell'educazione famigliare ricevuta (imposta), della repressione dei valori borghesi e del sottile velo di ipocrisia ovunque imperante di plasmare la mente del povero protagonista secondo un modello che non sente affatto suo. L'erotomania imperante diviene, allora, il tentativo quasi inconscio d'infrangere uno dei principali tabù: il tentativo di riaffermar la propria libera individualità a fronte di un mondo che vorrebbe recludere ogni individuo oltre le false mura della massificazione.
Profile Image for Yücel.
76 reviews
January 15, 2022
Alexander Portnoy, oturuyor terapistinin koltuğuna ve anlatmaya başlıyor ama ne anlatma. Akla gelmesi bile mide bulandırıcı şeyleri, en ağıza gelmeyecek şekilde anlatıyor. Ailenin, akrabanın, dini kimliğin yeri geldiğinde ne kadar yaralayıcı, ne kadar baskıcı ve içinden çıkılmaz olabileceğini, hayatı nasıl cehenneme çevirebileceğini gösteriyor.

Bir de ekleme yapayım, 2000 yılında kitabın yasaklanması için açılan davada yargılamaya konu iddia şu şekilde idi; "Halkın ar ve haya duygularını rencide ettiği, ailedeki terbiye ve disiplin anlayışının yozlaştırılarak gençler üzerinde aile otoritesinin azaltılmasının, asi çocuk örneklerinin çoğaltılmasının amaçlandığı"
Profile Image for zumurruddu.
127 reviews103 followers
July 18, 2018
Il mare impetuoso al tramonto…(*)

Esilarante, caustico, irriverente. Che altro dire?
Che ogni volta che leggo questo autore rimango incantata dalla vividezza, dalla potenza con cui le persone (nemmeno i personaggi) saltano fuori dalle pagine, e si muovono e parlano e agiscono, veri, nitidi, naturali. E la scrittura accattivante, scoppiettante, che non perde un colpo.
E non ho potuto non provare partecipazione e tenerezza per Alex Portnoy, per le sue ossessioni e i suoi sensi di colpa. Il senso di colpa! Questo romanzo è un vero e proprio trattato esaustivo su questo sentimento pernicioso, persistente, onnipresente nella vita di molti...
Mi è rimasto un dubbio: o anche i miei genitori sono ebrei e me l’hanno sempre abilmente tenuto nascosto, o la cultura del senso di colpa non è solo prerogativa di questa religione...

“Quando Heshie restò ucciso in guerra, l’unica cosa che alla gente venne in mente di dire a mia zia Clara e a mio zio Hymie, per lenirne l’orrore e consolarne il dolore fu: - Se non altro non vi ha lasciati con una moglie shikse. Se non altro non vi ha lasciati con dei bambini goysche.
Fine di Heshie e della sua storia.”

(*) magari non c'entra niente ma questa è la stata la mia colonna sonora
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
712 reviews586 followers
February 7, 2022
68th book of 2021.

I've had some trouble with Roth in that every time I see one of his books in a charity shop or a sale, I buy them, and over the years I've accumulated perhaps 5 or 6 Roth novels, and yet haven't (until now) read a single one. I would take one off the shelf and think, I haven't got this one, I must read some Roth, I must read this. So I kept buying them and never managed to read them. According to Penguin, Portnoy's Complaint is the best novel to start with. It isn't his first novel, but it is the novel that sent him into literary stardom. The novel is framed as a nearly 300 page monologue from Portnoy to his psychoanalyst, Dr. Spielvogel.

I was expecting sex. I was not quite expecting the level and humour of the sex. This long section is from page 18. Alexander Portnoy begins by describing his masturbation addiction.
On an outing of our family association, I once cored an apple, saw to my astonishment (and with the aid of my obsession) what it looked like, and ran off into the woods to fall upon the orifice of the fruit, pretending that the cool and mealy hole was actually between the legs of that mythical being who always called me Big Boy when she pleaded for what no girl in all recorded history had ever had. "Oh shove it in me, Big Boy," cried the cored apple that I banged silly on that picnic.
Or just slightly later, the description of Portnoy violating a piece of liver bought en route to his bar mitzvah lesson. It's vulgar but it's humorous and Portnoy has a strong narrative voice. The beginning is entirely around his overprotective and overbearing Jewish parents and his obsession with sex, imagining sex, masturbation. There are scenes where he is locked in the bathroom attempting to masturbate when his parents are trying to barge in and ask him what's wrong. He creatively describes all manners of his obsession: at one point he puts on strap of his sister's bra on the doorknob and the other on the knob of a bathroom cabinet and there the bra hangs and wobbles in front of him, as if attached to a woman.

Once Roth has had his play at talking about sex and shocking the reader (it's hardly shocking for us now, but I imagine it was in '69), Portnoy digs deeper into his family life, his being raised a Jew, etc. And there's a great amount of bitterness about the latter. Eventually the novel comes back around to the sex as Portnoy explains some of the long relationships he had in his adult life, none of them very "normal". I said recently in my review of Batlava Lake, which is also a monologue, that novels such as these need to have a moment that breaks through all the comic value/sex/humour and strike something deeper to find, for lack of a better word, the point of it all. (I'm not suggesting all novels have a giant overt "point", but I think there has to be something shining through a giant comical monologue like this.) In Portnoy's Complaint, we get the glimpse (1) what Portnoy maybe really wants,
Dignity! Health! Love! Industry! Intelligence! Trust! Decency! High Spirits! Compassion!

and (2) we get a female character berating him near the end of the novel for all she believes Portnoy is. It struck me quite well in the end: problems with girls and masturbation become problems in general! In life! In America! With the modern man! With money! With ambition! Etc.!

Roth loves an exclamation mark and this novel is full of them. I remember a professor telling me at university that using more than 1 on a page was sloppy writing. Roth uses hundreds. I didn't count but I wonder how many are truly used in this 274 page novel. Somehow, it works: Portnoy's lamenting is the entire point of the novel and without them, it would be worse off. A brilliant and vulgar and bizarre novel. Glad I finally read Roth. I still own about 4 others though.
What I'm saying, Doctor, is that I don't seem to stick my dick up these girls, as much as I stick it up their backgrounds—as though through fucking I will discover America. Conquer America—maybe that's more like it.
Profile Image for Erasmia Kritikou.
264 reviews89 followers
September 24, 2019
"Μα είναι χριστιανισμός αυτό που μυρίζω, ή απλώς ο σκύλος;"

3,5 αστερια για την ιστορια, και το αλλο μισό υπερ του αγαπημενου Ροθ, αυτού του προβοκάτορα, του αιρετικού, του ξεδιαντροπου, του ευφυούς, του έκφυλου - οπου τα παντα περιστρεφονται γυρω απο το σεξ και τα παντα ειναι σεξ, μ' εναν συμβολισμο και μια πρωτογονότητα Φροϋδικού τύπου.
Το ψυχαναλυτικό εργο Πόρτνοϊ, ειναι ενας μονολογος σαρκαστικος - κατ αρχας αυτοσαρκαστικος - που ξεκινα απο το ατομο Αλεξαντερ Πορτνοϊ και επεκτεινεται στον Εβραιο Πορτνοϊ, εξαπλωνεται στον αντρα Πορτνοϊ και καλυπτει ολη την ανθρωποτητα απο τον καθε Πορτνοϊ που εχουμε ολοι, λιγο εως πολύ, μεσα μας.

Καθε ανειπωτη σκεψη, καθε διαστροφή, καθε κρυφη επιθυμια, καθε παραπονο απο τη μανα μας, καθε λανθασμενο προτυπο απο τον πατέρα μας, ό,τι ζησαμε μικροι και αναπαραγουμε τραγικά και μας καθοριζει τη ζωη, και μας καταστραφει τη ζωη.

Με το τρομερο ευρημα της εξομολογησης στον ψυχαναλυτη του, δικαιολογει καθε ταμπου που καταρριπτει και καθε σκοτεινή εξομολογηση που σοκαρει και καθε πολιτικαλυ ινκορρεκτνες που δε θα πρεπε να λεχθει δημοσια.
Εγω θαυμαζω τον Ροθ και γι αυτο το χαρακτηριστικό του: Να σου πεταει στα μουτρα τον ��ραγματικό ανθρωπο, με καθε του ατελεια και νευρωση, να σου πεταει στα μουτρα τον εαυτο σου και να σου λεει, να κι εσυ ετσι εισαι, αποδεξου και τις σκοτεινες σου γωνιές.
Τον θαυμαζω και γιατι γραφει με τη φυσικοτητα που αναπνέει, χωρις να αποκρυπτει και χωρις να λογοκρινει το παραμικρο απο τις σκεψεις του - ολες, μ ενα χαρακτηριστικο Συνδρόμου Τουρετ σχεδον, αποτυπωνονται ετσι οπως ειναι. Αδιαντροπα στο φως.

Ο Ροθ ειναι ΤΟ χαμενο Νομπελ Λογοτεχνιας, δε θα σταματησω να το λεω, τοτε που πηγαν οι Σουηδοι να το παιξουνε κουλ προγκρεσιβ και το δωσανε στον Μπομπ Ντυλαν για τους στιχους των τραγουδιων του - και ο Ντυλαν δεν πηγε καν στην απονομη-
μπορει να εχει αναγνωστες που τον βαριουνται, που τον μαχονται, που τον λενε σεξιστη, σεξομανη, εμμονικό - όμως κι ολα αυτά για να τα αποκαλυψεις, και να τα δωσεις Μ ΕΝΑΝ ΤΕΤΟΙΟ ΤΡΟΠΟ υψηλης λογοτεχνιας στο χαρτι και στη δημοσιοτητα και στον κόσμο - αυτο χαρακτηριζει εναν πρωτοπορο καλλιτέχνη.
Και καποια κριτηρια τεχνης ειναι αντικειμενικά. Και ο Ροθ τα πληροί ολα.

"Ευτυχώς, ηταν τοση η αγανάκτησή μου, που μ' αφησε άναυδο. Πώς ήταν δυνατόν να νιώθω πληγή σ' ενα σημειο οπου δεν ήμουν καν τρωτός; Δυο πράγματα στον κόσμο ενδιέφεραν λιγοτερο την Κέι κι εμένα: πρώτον, τα λεφτά. δευτερον, η θρησκεία. Αγαπημένος μας φιλόσοφος ήταν ο Μπερναντ Ράσσελ. Θρησκεία μας ηταν η θρησκεία του Ντίλαν Τόμας, η Αλήθεια, η Χαρά! Τα παιδια μας θα ταν άθεα"
Profile Image for Lubinka Dimitrova.
254 reviews150 followers
July 26, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Julie G .
883 reviews2,742 followers
August 20, 2012
Thirty years after Roth wrote Portnoy's Complaint he won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. The reason is. . . he knows how to write. He writes with a boldness and bravado I favor. However, this is not a book for just anyone! If my grandmother had cracked open the cover, I assure you, the paramedics would have found her dead from a stroke or heart-attack, the book still open on her chest. Portnoy's Complaint has, within its almost 300 pages, more vulgarity and profanity than any other book I've ever read. If I see my son reading this before the age of 30, I will physically remove it from his hands. And, I assure you, no mother is giving this book to her son (at any age!!). Nonetheless, if you like good writing and have a great sense of humor, you might really enjoy this read.
Profile Image for Jr Bacdayan.
211 reviews1,680 followers
August 13, 2016
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 society? What’s the gist, the point, the essence? To say things which nobody has said before? Is it just anger, contempt? Sure, I get the whole defy the boundaries of society thing, to be rid of the cultural standards and stuff. Freedom from the restrictive paradigm! I get it, I do. Fuck society. Fuck culture, marriage, family, democracy, capitalism, sexual-restraint. Fuck them all! But is it just that? Why go through all the girlfriends? I bet that’s boasting there, Philip. Just because you had cunt doesn’t mean we wanna hear about it. All you did was give me a boner in some parts. That wasn’t a very nice thing to do given all the whining coming with it. You’re an asshole, Roth! You’re worse. You’re thinking of doing perverse stuff to your own Mother! That’s going beyond the oedipal tendencies, bud. Are you suggesting that we should practice incest because fuck the society? Incest because fuck the law? You motherfucker! That’s gross, man. Is that the point? What about all that wanking? Is is just to make me wanna wank myself? Well, you succeeded mate. I may have wanked somewhere in between reading your book. Satisfied, Roth? You corrupted a youth. If someone catches me doing the deed, Imma tell them I learned it from the venerated Philip Roth. But I’m telling you, you didn’t succeed with that whole incest thing. You stay out of my family! And really the liver? You thought up that it should be fed to a family? I bet you did that in real life. What is this semi-autobiographical? Because I’m telling ya, some things here were a little too graphic to be made up. Come on, bud. Say it. I did all this when I was younger. There’s a good boy. So you just wanted to share life experiences, eh? No? Then what is it? Ah, I think I’ve got it. Now, Phil. Mind if I call you Phil? So is this really just another Catcher in the Rye, except you know, you have crazy substituting the teenage angst here. Is it really just I’m too good for you stuff? Just another anarchy dude, another all that “my life, my rules” crap. The world’s your oyster kid. Joke’s on you, it’s not. What’s with all the sexual stuff? To prove that sex is a natural instinct and shouldn’t be so shameful? Sure, that’s pretty good. But is that all? Defy life, sex is normal. Is that it? Bullshit, Phil! You may be a chronic-wanker, but you’re not stupid enough to write a book about this stuff. This is all movie crap. This is the bread and butter of scriptwriters, not novelists. You’ve got more pride than that. You’ve won a Pulitzer for cryin out loud! Why write this? What are you trying to tell me? Why all the babble! Are you a Nazi? Are you trying to justify the holocaust? What is with this book? Is it to make me be a better man? Is it supposed to show the inadequacies of my complaints, the shallowness of it all? Are you using reverse psychology?! It won’t work, boyo. We gentiles are a smarter breed than you give us credit for. You cunt! You sexist, racist, homophobic son of a woman. Are you trying to show us the thoughts of the superior Caucasian man? Hehe! Now I’m the racist one. Sorry, Phil. Didn’t mean to hurt ya there. But I’m still stumped here. What’s the big picture? What’s it saying to me? Libido is libertarian? I guess I can work with that. Hahaha! Wait, humor won’t work here, Phil. You wrote and book and I read it. You have to answer me here. No, you don’t have the right to remain silent. No, you can’t invoke your right to self-incrimination. Say it! Open up! Spill the beans! Let the cat out of the bag! Try to see the big picture, you say? Ah! I see! It’s in the punch-line! What, no comment? So it’s about the doctor. I get it now, sonny. You thought that you freed yourself from the chains of society. You broke everything, you howled! You didn’t give a crap about anything. Heck, you even tore the tag off the mattress! But really, you weren’t freed. The fact that you were talking to a shrink proved that you thought something was wrong with you. You say you didn’t give a shit, but you put yourself under observation. You say you lived big, but you confined yourself with a mental-health professional. You were under invisible chains, your freedom was an illusion. Why the silence now, Phil? Say something. What? I’m confusing you with Portnoy? But you wrote it, mate. Doesn’t that sort of identify you with the protagonist? What? I’m an asshole? Alright, whatever. You’re the man. I’m just saying, freedom from societal-norms is an illusion. Sometimes, all we can do is complain. Am I right, Phil?
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,773 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.