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The Counterlife (Complete Nathan Zuckerman #6)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  3,286 Ratings  ·  228 Reviews
The Counterlife is about people enacting their dreams of renewal and escape, some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter seemingly irreversible destinies. Wherever they may find themselves, the characters of The Counterlife are tempted unceasingly by the prospect of an alternative existence that can reverse their fate.
Illuminating these lives in transition a
Paperback, 371 pages
Published January 5th 1988 by Penguin Books (first published 1986)
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Michael Finocchiaro
An extraordinary tour de force from Roth. Varying styles of narration, sub-text commenting on subtext like Pale Fire, it was an exhilarating read.

There was a lot of quotable material:
Nathan Zuckerman at the Wailing Wall: "Rock is just right, I thought : what on earth could be less responsive. Even the cloud drifting overhead, Shuki's late father's "Jewish cloud," appeared less indifferent to our encompassed and uncertain existence."
And later with his brother Henry near Hebron: "What if that was
Aug 03, 2009 marked it as aborted-efforts  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dicklits
One thing writing all these book reports has done is help me figure out why I read. Our Lady of the Flowers really clarified some key reasons for it in an unavoidably brash, ballsy, obvious way even I could understand: I read because my adult mind is worn out, is tired, it's limp and lazy, my mind's become frustratingly ineffectual and can't always get going. It wants to love the world, but it's become increasingly difficult for it to muster the necessary excitement. I'll be out walking around s ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“People are unjust to anger — it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.”
― Philip Roth, The Counterlife


Structurally brilliant, with a prose that shoots aggressively off every page. Roth begins his narrative with erectile disfunction and ends it with a nod to the circumcised erection of the Jewish father. Roth is going to travel and transform. He is going to elect for historical plastic surgery just so he can pick at every wound and irritate every scar of the past. He will use and abuse every bias a
David Schaafsma
Once upon a time, when I went to a therapist for marital counseling, the doctor asked me, “Where have you visited that you might like to live? “ “Let’s say Las Cruces, or Sante Fe, or Boulder,” I said. “Fine, what would Santa Fe might be like for you? How might you be different there?” “Ah, right,” I said, “I would still be the same person, regardless of wherever I live. I am still myself. I could start a new relationship, and would still have my ‘issues’ with whomever I was with.” But I also th ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can't tell you what this book is about because, for one thing, I don't want to spoil anything and, secondly, because I'm not even sure what I just read. It's one of those books where I had the desire to pinch myself while reading it, hoping it was all a dream. But that doesn't work when I'm wide awake and when the author has purposefully set out to confound me with different levels of reality, making my reading experience unreal. And that isn't a compliment.

I disliked this story. It was full
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, us, 20-ce
A masterpiece. When I reread it again I'll make more extensive notes. A real knock-out of a novel---and funny!
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
GOOD NEWS: I finished this book.
BAD NEWS: Although I've long been a fan of Philip Roth's work, after reading this one, I moved some Roth books on my to-read shelf so far down the list that I may wind up reading them posthumously -- when my solar calendar and Jewish calendar have been replaced by an eternity calendar.

The odds in Vegas were heavily tilted in favor of my liking THE COUNTERLIFE. Hey, the book contains material on subjects of considerable interest to me: anti-Semitism, the non-Jewis
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La controvita è un romanzo di commovente bellezza, di rara lucidità, un moltiplicatore di strategie narrative che sembra andare in automatico e a fine lettura non ci sono conclusioni da trarre, certezze da confutare o respingere, ma solo domande che restano sospese e che generano ulteriori interrogativi.
Di cosa parla La controvita? Principalmente d'identità, e a dirlo così sembra la scoperta dell'acqua calda, son due secoli che i romanzi parlano di questo, ma qui l'identità e la sua ricerca sono
Roger Brunyate
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
The Question before Finkler

Entertaining, thought-provoking, technically brilliant, and timely. Timely too in its relationship to another much-lauded book, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question, the most recent Man Booker winner. By coincidence, a friend gave me her copy of the Roth on the same day that I bought the Jacobson; neither of us connected the two. But now, having enjoyed both books immensely, I am amazed at how closely Roth anticipates Jacobson 34 years earlier. Both authors treat the
Kimberly Erskine
I loved Philip Roth’s The Counterlife. It was one of those rare books that could make me feel a multitude of emotions and it took me by surprise. It is rare that books truly take me by surprise and have unexpected twists in the plots. This book did everything.

In the beginning this book offended me. I was outraged by the raw, raunchiness of it. I hated the character of Henry. He disgusted me. I hated the way he left his family to have an affair. I hated the way he risked his life to have a danger
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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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Other Books in the Series

Complete Nathan Zuckerman (10 books)
  • My Life as a Man
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Zuckerman Unbound
  • The Anatomy Lesson
  • The Prague Orgy
  • American Pastoral (The American Trilogy, #1)
  • I Married a Communist (The American Trilogy, #2)
  • The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3)
  • Exit Ghost
“And as he spoke, I was thinking, 'the kind of stories that people turn life into, the kind of lives people turn stories into.” 19 likes
“People are unjust to anger — it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.” 8 likes
More quotes…