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By Darwin8u on 08-05-18
"Don’t you see, I have out-Kafkaed Kafka.”
- Philip Roth, The Breast
[As Philip Roth awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself reading Kafka in his bed and decided to turn Professor David Kepesh into a mammary gland.]
So, yeah, that is basically it. Think of this as Roth being fixated with Kafka (see Metamorphosis) and Gogol (see the Nose). Roth was in the middle of his Kafka/Czechoslovakia preoccupation. After Portnoy's Complaint and its huge success, Roth moved to "the woods" in Connecticut; he started teaching courses on Kafka at University of Pennsylvania. He was experimenting. He was playing around. He was being indulgent.
Late 60s/early 70s Roth novels have never been my favorite, but understanding he was going to spend his next four years (1972-76) chasing Kafka and interacting with/helping/promoting Czecholslovakian writers* puts the Breast in context for me. I think of it as the birthing of the NEW Roth. The one who would go on to write the great Zuckerman novels. So, the novel? Not the best. The period? Transformative.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Mitzi on 12-04-18
ROTH IS NO KAFKA
What a horrible book!
I am not prudish and never blush before sexual or scurrilous language. In fact, I enjoy it. However, there is a difference between the genius poet who yells obscenities at a worthless existence, say, or the madness of humankind, and the next-door neighbor with Tourette syndrome who yells inscrutable profanities to appease his urge.
Actually, I take that back. The next-door neighbor has the entirely justifiable excuse of a neurodevelopmental condition. Philip Roth does not.
The expression of obscene and violent male sexual desires in this novel is no there to serve a plot; the book exists in order to offer a vehicle for Roth’s obscene and violent sexual fantasies.
Never seen anybody failing more grossly at imitating Kafka.
The reader did what he could, given the hollowness of the material.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful