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The Counterlife
Philip Roth
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1986



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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 and guiding us through the book's evocative landscapes, familiar and foreign, is the miind of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman. His is the skeptical, enveloping intelligence that calculates the price that's paid in the struggle to change personal fortune and reshape history, whether in a dentist's office in suburban New Jersey, or in a tradition-bound English Village in Gloucestershire, or in a church in London's West End, or in a tiny desert settlement in Israel's occupied West Bank.

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BOOKS BY PHILIP ROTH:

The Professor of Desire
1977
David Kapesh, an adventurous man of intelligence and feeling, tries to make his way to both pleasure and dignity through a world of sensual possiblities. This novel, by the author of Portnoy's Complaint, explores the pursuit and loss of erotic happiness.
Goodbye, Columbus
1959
A Radcliffe undergraduate and a Newark public library employee engage in a summer romance.
The Human Stain
2000
Coleman Silk has a secret. But it's not the secret of his affair, at seventy-one, with a woman half his age. And it's not the secret of his alleged racism, which provoked the college witchhunt that cost him his job. Coleman's secret is deeper, and lies at the very core of who he is, and he has kept it hidden from everyone for fifty years.
Operation Shylock
1993
A novel in which Philip Roth confronts his double, an imposter whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews not into, but out of Israel, and back to Europe.
ON PHILIP ROTH'S BOOKSHELF

The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow, 1953
Philip Roth has said, of Bellow and Malamud: 'They pointed to a world that I could recognize, and said: this is the material of fiction. (...) It takes a kind of intellectual revelation to discover that you can write about the place you come from.'

Dubin's Lives
Bernard Malamud, 1979
Malamud's protagonist is prize-winning biographer William Dubin, who learns from lives, or thinks he does: those he writes, those he shares, the life he lives. Now in his later middle age, he seeks his own secret self, and the obsession of biography is supplanted by the obsession of love - for a woman half his age.

The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories
Franz Kafka, 1915-1924
Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania during the gestation of Portnoy's Complaint, Roth assigned 'a lot of Kafka…. The course might have been called "Studies in Guilt and Persecution."'

Portnoy's Complaint
1967
The famous confession of Alexander Portnoy who is thrust through life by his unappeasable sexuality, yet held back at the same time by the iron grip of his unforgettable childhood.
Everyman
2006
The terrain of this savagely sad short novel is the human body, and its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.

The Counterlife
1986
The Counterlife follows protagonist Nathan Zuckerman from New York to Israel to London. Along the way, monologues, eulogies, letters, interviews, and conversations ponder Judaism and Zionism, the nature of personality, the competing claims of imagination and life, and sex.
Patrimony
1991
Roth watches as his eighty-six-year-old father - famous for his vigor, charm, and his repertoire of Newark recollections - battles with the brain tumor that will kill him.
Sabbath's Theater
1995
After the death of his long-time mistress - an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring exceeds even his own - 64-year-old puppeteer Mickey Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past.
The Dying Animal
2001
David Kepesh is white-haired and over sixty, an eminent TV culture critic and star lecturer at a New York College, when he meets Consuela Castillo, a decorous, well-mannered student of twenty-four, the daughter of wealthy Cuban exiles, who promptly puts his life into erotic disorder and haunts him for the next eight years.
American Pastoral
1997
Seymour 'Swede' Levov - a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheriter of his father's Newark glove factory - comes of age in thriving, triumphant post-war America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s.
I Married a Communist
1998
The rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s.
The Breast
1972
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.
The Facts
1988
By offering his memoirs plus a critique of same penned by his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, Roth here undermines the autobiographical genre as he derailed fictional conventions in The Counterlife.
The Anatomy Lesson
1983
At forty, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction - pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, is unable to write a line.
The Ghost Writer
1979
The Ghost Writer introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s; a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his literary idol, E. I. Lonoff.
Letting Go
1962
Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents a fictional portrait of a mid-twentieth-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.
When She Was Good
1966
When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her alcoholic failure of a father thrown in jail. Ever since then she has been trying to reform the men around her, even if that ultimately means destroying herself in the process.
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