The Counterlife, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


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 mind of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman.

His is the sceptical, 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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A book like a play, set in five acts, each containing a different mix of the same ingredients: brotherly love/hate, heartfailure, impotency, death, love, what does it mean to be a jew. Often he punctures the thin membrane between the fictious reality of the book - actually several confliction versions- and the real world of the living writer. It's a trick I usually don't like, but Roth pulls it of: the stoy flows naturally between the multiple fictious worlds of the book and reality. Pivotal sentence of the book for me: 'The treacherous imagination is everybody's maker - we are all the invention of each other, everybody a conjuration conjuring up everyone else. We are all each other's authors.' I was emotionally very moved by this book ,especially when Roth writes about the love and hate between the Brothers Henry and Nathan. As for other themes the book is also very concerned with religious extremism and hatred, especially the jewish variant (it contains a quite balanced description of a meir kahane lookalike).

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