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The Counterlife [Format Kindle]

Philip Roth
4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Revue de presse

"Magnificent...splendid.... I hope The Counterlife felt, as Mr. Roth wrote it, like a triumph, because that is certainly how it reads to me." —William Gass, The New York Times Book Review

"Roth is a comic genius.... In this book (wonderfully sharp, worryingly intense) he is an electrifier." —Martin Amis, The Atlantic

"No other writer combines such a surface of colloquial relaxation and even dishevelment with such a dense load of mediating intelligence.... Roth has never written more scrupulously or, in spots, more lovingly." —John Updike, The New Yorker

Présentation de l'éditeur

The Counterlife is a novel unlike any that Philip Roth has written before, a book of astonishing 180-degree turns, a book of conflicting perspectives and points of view, and, by far, Roth's most radical work of fiction.
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.  Every major character (and most of the minor ones) is investigating, debating, and arguing the possibility of remaking the future.
Illuminating these lives in transition and guiding us through all the landscapes, familiar and foreign, where these people are seeking self-transformation, is the mind 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 to reshape history.
Yet his is hardly the only voice.  This is a novel in which speaking out with force and lucidity appears to be the imperative of every life.  There is Henry, the forty-year-old New Jersey dentist, who risks a quintuple bypass operation in order to escape the coronary medication that renders him sexually impotent.  There is Maria, the wellborn young Englishwoman, who invites the disdain of her family by marrying the American she knows will be lease acceptable in Gloucestershire.  There is Lippmann, the Israeli settlement leader, who contends that "everything is possible for the Jew if only he does not give ground."
The action in The Counterlife ranges from a dentist's office in quiet suburban New Jersey to a genteel dining table in a tradition-bound English village, from a Christmas carol service in London's West End to a Sabbath evening celebration in a tiny desert settlement in Israel's occupied West Bank.  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.
The Counterlife was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 So dazzling! 17 mai 2004
Par Un client
A novel that needs to be read over twice, as the author, narrator and character are not what they seem to be! A self- reflexive narrative that challenges our conventional way of reading and understanding literature. A magnificent postmodern work: let yourself caught in this fictional vertigo!
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Roth est là 7 avril 2012
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Livre difficile, le point de vue du 'narrateur' et des personnages changengent souvent; au lecteur de créer les liens lui-même. Il semble que le projet de l'auteur tourne autour de la question de la 'juivité'.

Le dernier chapitre, brillant, pose justement cette question. Est-ce que l'attitude de Nathan dans sa dernière lettre, dans laquelle il essaie de regagner sa fiancée,ne montre plutôt comment son approche de la vie est totalement incompatible avec la 'passivité' de Maria?

Un récit épatant à plusieurs niveaux; un noeud difficile à défaire, aussi complexe que la vie elle-même! Bravo!
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5  45 commentaires
29 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Roth in transition 16 août 2005
Par jonsj - Publié sur
The Counterlife is one of Roth's most unusual and experimental novels, and finds Roth in transition from the spare, elegant books of the Zuckerman Bound trilogy to the more expansive Zuckerman novels of his recent, acclaimed "America" trilogy (American Pastoral, I Married a Communist, and The Human Stain).

In The Counterlife we get the full range of Roth--from the moving but wickedly funny first part Basel, where Nathan Zuckerman narrates the events leading to his brother Henry's death and subsequent funeral, to the second section Judea, where Nathan goes to Israel to try to lure Henry (restored to life and now part of a militant Zionist group) back home to the States, to a later section where Nathan has died, and an estranged Henry attends his funeral, to the final sections with Nathan in England, dealing with anti-Semitism and his wife's family in a brilliant bit of social comedy.

Plot sounds confusing, right? Yet The Counterlife is not a wildly post-modern novel, but a fairly straightforward read. Not all parts of the book work as effectively as the others, and the book is less finished than some of Roth's other work, but there are stretches here that contain some of the best writing Roth has ever done. This is a book deeply concerned with questions of identity and free will--more specifically about the many lives we create for ourselves and the way we often form these lives by reacting with or against other people's conceptions of us.

It's a remarkably thought-provoking and absorbing novel; if I would withhold it from the very top tier of Roth's achievements it's only because it lacks the cohesion and concentration of his best work. Still, a deeply rewarding book, and a must-read for Roth fans.
20 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Philip Roth's The Counterlife - A Quest for Identity 30 novembre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur
Philip Roth is one of the most highly acclaimed Jewish-American writers of our time, and The Counterlife confirms his skill as a craftsman and a philosopher on Jewish matters. Roth creates perfect environments for the scrutiny of a subject one frequently encounters in his work: The intellectual secular Jewish male's search for and affirmation of his identity.
This theme is woven into each of the novel's five chapters, which are authored in first-person narrative by the fictional writer Nathan Zuckerman. Zuckerman defines identity by weighing secularity against religious fervor, masculinity against femininity, potency against impotency, and Jewish awareness against anti-Semitism.
While the novel is set in Zuckerman's fictional world, the chapters each tell separate stories. The situations Zuckerman creates vary, and thus three forms of Jewish identity between which he seems to be caught are examined. Zuckerman experiences the identities of the secular son of traditional Jewish parents, of being a militant Jew's brother, and of the son-in-law grappling with his mother-in-law's anti-Semitism which causes the failure of yet another attempt at family life.
Similar themes can be identified in Roth's other works, such as Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy's Complaint. However, the post-modern structure of The Counterlife allows for their juxtaposition within one novel, thereby offering the reader a spectrum of the protagonist's issues of identity.
Roth's prose is explicit, witty, and even funny, making the novel a truely enjoyable and engaging read. In the interest of authenticity, he does not recoil from using obscenities. He mocks Jewish-American militancy and pseudo-religiosity by the creation of Ben-Joseph, the author of the "Five Books of Jimmy," who really misses baseball in Israel and later hijacks an El Al plane for hopeless ends.
Nevertheless, Roth does not lose sight of the danger inherent in this militancy. Zuckerman finds his brother's carrying a gun alarming. He detects a loss of "Henry's [his brother's] Henriness," and wonders whether Henry has "developed, postoperatively, a taste for the ersatz in life".
A well-rounded novel, and certainly a must for those interested in Jewish-American writing.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Roth's "Variations On a Theme" 17 novembre 2009
Par William J. Fickling - Publié sur
This is the best novel I have read by Philip Roth (so far). It is unlike anything I have read by him before, or by many others, for that matter. When I finished it, I was reminded of a number of musical compositions called "Variations On a Theme By xxxxx), in which a composer takes a theme by another composer and then composes several variations on that theme. Here, however, the original theme is by Roth himself, so that Roth is writing variations on his own theme.

I don't like people who write reviews with spoilers, so I won't do that here, in that I won't reveal any crucial plot elements. However, I don't believe it would ruin any prospective reader's enjoyment to reveal the book's basic structure. The book is divided into 5 sections. In the first, a major event occurs to one of the characters. In the second, the tape is rewound and that same character's life takes another course. In the third and, in my opinion, the most expendable part of the book, which follows directly from the second section, an unsettling event happens to one of the other main characters. In the fourth, the tape is rewound once again and the same thing that happened to one of the characters in the first section happens to one of the other characters. The fifth section follows directly from the second without the events in the third section having happened. Moreover, in this section one of the characters becomes aware that she is a character in a novel and begins talking back to the author.

Confused? I wouldn't blame you if you were. However, the book does come together with remarkable coherence at the end because it deals with several universal human themes. I think all human beings have "what ifs?" in their lives. Haven't all of us wondered at time what our lives would have been like if such and such hadn't happened. Roth shows us several different scenarios as to how things might have turned out for his characters. Another major theme is Jewish identity: how does a Jew fit into a society where he is a minority and perhaps an outsider? Or, does he reject that society and go to Israel, where Jews run the show? How does a gentile who is in no way anti-Semitic manage a relationship with a Jew she loves but who is also full of anger at the history of anti-Semitism? Finally, what is real and what isn't? What is the difference between fiction and reality? This is not an original theme, to be sure, but rather handles it with exceptional skill and finesse.

Finally, I must comment on Roth's prose style. Roth writes the clearest and most lucid prose of any modern American writer, with the possible exception of John Updike. Reading Roth is nearly effortless. What may be difficult and may cause the reader to pause are the ideas he discusses, but never the prose style. I cannot recommend this book highly enough as a riveting and talented read.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "An Australia for Jews" - a sad core amidst fine satire 5 avril 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur
This is a funny, satirical literary novel about the clownish mid-life crisis of a typical suburban Jewish New Jersey dentist - yes, it's Roth country! But at it's heart, in the Israel section of the book, the farce suddenly dies away: I found the sad, powerful tale of the character "Shuki" unexpectedly moving: Shuki, one of the original European settlers of Israel, who enthusiastically built Israel and fought in the front line through all the troubles, is now an exhausted, world-weary man. He sees all the talented Jews of the world settling in places like the USA, Canada, Britain and France, whereas forty years of unrelenting war have turned Israel (he says) into "an Australia for Jews," a place where the first rate don't emigrate to anymore, only the most hopeless come now, those without the skills or talent to get them into the First World, who must experience a day to day tension so profound it's like a recreation of the pogroms of Russia. Roth's stunning departure from the farcical aspects of his story and Shuki's blunt assessments hit the reader like a succession of boxer's blows, the reader lulled previously by all the fine satire and good story telling. Luckily, the farce returns quickly, and we're off for more crazy adventures with the suburban New Jersey dentist and his writer brother, but this is a unexpectedly a very powerful book, and though it came out a few years ago it is, of course, especially moving right now in these troubled times.
Don't miss Roth's other novels if you like this one. I also recommend Dawn Powell's *The Golden Spur*, Simon Raven's *Alms For Oblivion* series, Sandor Marai's *Embers*, the poetry of Philip Larkin and Paul Theroux's *Kowloon Tong*. And all of Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of Roth's Best Novels 28 avril 2011
Par Ethan Cooper - Publié sur
THE COUNTERLIFE begins with a short chapter entitled "Basel". In this, the novelist Nathan Zuckerman imagines the adulterous mindset and experiences of his brother Henry, a successful dentist and father of three, who chooses to undergo risky heart bypass surgery rather than take medication that leaves him impotent. The surgery kills Henry and his wife, who knows of his infidelities, falsely eulogizes her dead husband at his funeral, claiming that Henry underwent surgery to restore their precious physical relationship. In this fine novel, this is the first apparent counterlife that Roth concocts, which he defines, in reference to Israel, as constructing "one's own anti-myth..."

This narrative strategy--develop an alternative story from the apparent facts--produces some fascinating and deep thinking from Roth in THE COUNTERLIFE. For example in "Judea", this novel's second chapter, Henry undergoes the same heart surgery, lives, and then experiences severe depression, which he manages through aliyah to Israel. There Henry, an assimilated American Jew before his surgery, lives in a settlement in the territories, where he becomes a follower of a charismatic and apocalyptic settler, who another character calls a "psychopath alienated profoundly from the country's common sense." In "Judea", Nathan, also an assimilated Jew, travels to Israel to discuss the wisdom of aliyah with his brother. Roth manages the subsequent clash of viewpoints with great subtlety and eloquence, with a diverse selection of Jews contributing depth or background to their discussion. "Judea", in other words, presents the counterlife to "Basel", where horny and unfaithful Henry basically loses his life for oral sex.

Another illustration: In chapter four, "Gloucestershire", it is Nathan who has heart disease, uses Beta-blockers, and is impotent. Nonetheless, he is determined to father a child with Maria, a brilliant and much younger upper-crust Brit. As a result, this Nathan decides to have risky heart surgery, which kills him. Then Henry, a dentist and professional's professional, illicitly enters his deceased brother's apartment, where he is determined to extirpate from his Nathan's notes all references to his single marital indiscretion. This Henry shares some qualities with the Henry in "Basel"--namely, an adulterous past. And he shares qualities with the Henry in "Judea", who is resentful of his renowned brother. But in "Gloucestershire", Henry is positioned to express the fullness of his remorse and his anger. And he offers yet another counterlife, where Roth examines how the novelist's need to enrich life in narrative can engender misunderstanding and rage in others.

In THE COUNTERLIFE, Roth is an author of disputation. Instead of managing the content of his narrative to a few profound truths, he allows each of his characters to make an eloquent and irrefutable argument. This produces a book with both great richness and intense and unresolved disagreement. In the final chapter, "Christendom", this creates problems for Maria and Nathan, who in a counterlife, marry. But this also allows Maria to make comments on Nathan's character that certainly apply to the author Philip Roth. These include:

o "You and I argue, and the twentieth-century history comes looming up, and at its most infernal. I feel pressed on every side, and it takes the stuffing out of me--but for you, it's your métier, really.

o "You actually like to take things hard. You can't weave your stories otherwise."

Of course, I don't mean to convey that THE COUNTERLIFE is only debate and friction. In addition, there is some truly great descriptive writing, which shows Roth can capture the appearance of a character or the feel of a place whenever he wants. Here's Roth describing Lippman, a settler and fanatic: "Because of his injury, Lippman walked as though intending with each step to take wing and fly at your head--then the torso slowly sank into the imperfect leg and he looked like a man who was melting. I thought of a circus tent about to cave in after the center pole was withdrawn. I waited for the thud, but there he was advancing... his face had the sardonic mobility that comes of peering nobly down upon self-deceiving mankind from the high elevation of Hard Truth." His description of the house in Chiswick is also wonderful.

I'm no expert. But near the start of "Christendom", isn't the sly Roth using this talent to channel Jane Austen?

Highly recommended.
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