The Counterlife by Philip Roth - review by David Sexton

David Sexton

Shooting More Than His Mouth Off

The Counterlife

By

Jonathan Cape 336pp £10.95 order from our bookshop
 

Philip Roth notoriously writes books about Philip Roth under another name. For the last five it has been the same name: Nathan Zuckerman. In an interview he defended the practice ingeniously:

Think of the ventriloquist. He speaks so that his voice appears to proceed from someone at a distance from himself. But if he weren’t in your line of vision you’d get no pleasure from his art at all.

Yet truly getting pleasure from a ventriloquist depends not just on the voice appearing to come from a distance but also on its then sounding different.

His great subject is his struggle to be himself, not what others want him to be. At first this was fairly straightforwardly a matter of

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter