The Breast

The Breast

3.17 (4,377 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

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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 monstrous cockroach, the narrator of Philip Roth's fantasy has become a 155-pound female breast.

What follows is a deliriously funny yet moving exploration of the full implications of Kepesh's metamorphosis; audacious, heretical - as darkly hilarious as it is existentially unnerving - making new the silliness, triviality and wonderful meaninglessness of lived human experience.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 96 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 6mm | 74g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0
  • 0099477513
  • 9780099477518
  • 91,782

Review Text

A new shock world of sensual possibility... Need one say again that Roth is an admirable novelist who never steps twice into the same river?
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Review quote

Terrific...inventive and sane and very funny * New York Times Book Review * Roth is a living master -- Harold Bloom Roth's prose is, as ever, elegant and intelligent, delicate even when at its most crude. It sent me back to Kafka - a brave thing to do, but he stands the comparison well -- Margaret Drabble A new shock world of sensual possibility... Need one say again that Roth is an admirable novelist who never steps twice into the same river? -- Anthony Burgess Hilarious, serious, visionary, logical, sexual-philosophical; the ending amazes - the joke takes three steps beyond savagery and satire and turns into a sublimeness of pity. One knows when one is reading something that will permanently enter the culture -- Cynthia Ozick
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About Philip Roth

Philip Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey on 19 March 1933. The second child of second-generation Americans, Bess and Herman Roth, Roth grew up in the largely Jewish community of Weequahic, a neighbourhood he was to return to time and again in his writing. After graduating from Weequahic High School in 1950, he attended Bucknell University, Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago, where he received a scholarship to complete his M.A. in English Literature.

In 1959, Roth published Goodbye, Columbus - a collection of stories, and a novella - for which he received the National Book Award. Ten years later, the publication of his fourth novel, Portnoy's Complaint, brought Roth both critical and commercial success, firmly securing his reputation as one of America's finest young writers. Roth was the author of thirty-one books, including those that were to follow the fortunes of Nathan Zuckerman, and a fictional narrator named Philip Roth, through which he explored and gave voice to the complexities of the American experience in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

Roth's lasting contribution to literature was widely recognised throughout his lifetime, both in the US and abroad. Among other commendations he was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the International Man Booker Prize, twice the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award, and presented with the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal by Presidents Clinton and Obama, respectively.

Philip Roth died on 22 May 2018 at the age of eighty-five having retired from writing six years previously.
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Rating details

4,377 ratings
3.17 out of 5 stars
5 11% (467)
4 25% (1,089)
3 41% (1,787)
2 18% (788)
1 6% (246)

Our customer reviews

This is one of my favourite Roth fictions and has the sort of funny, mad, energetic exuberance of Portnoy's Complaint, while being much more absurd and surreal in its premise. There is nothing else quite like it in Roth's oeuvre. From the opening line 'It began oddly.', you are drawn into a first-person story told by David Kepesh, a literary professor (and the principal character of two subsequent and much better known fictions by Roth, The Professor Of Desire, and The Dying Animal). It is wonderfully comical, addresses both serious and fantastical issues, and all the while is utterly intriguing and intelligently done. David Kepesh, as the title of the novella makes clear, finds himself turning into a human breast, '[...] an organism with the general shape of a football, or a dirigible; [...] weighing one hundred and fifty-five pounds [...] and measuring, still, six feet in length.' The story deliberately and knowingly plays on two classic stories of the absurd: Kafka's most famous and brilliant, The Metamorphosis (Dover Thrift), in which Gregor Samsa struggles, denies, and agonises over coming to terms with his turning into a beetle, and Nikolai Gogol's The Nose, an equally absurd tale, in The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, where the character, Major Kovalyov, finds his nose abandons his face one day, and begins to assume a life of its own, much to Kovalyov's chagrin. While Roth could have made this story simply absurd and comical (and it succeeds on those levels alone, especially the relentless, obsessive sexual fantasies and agonies Kepesh experiences, wanting to have intercourse and oral sex using his nipple), what is impressive is the serious, angst-ridden, matter-of-fact way in which Kepesh tries vainlessly, and painfully, to rationalise his situation, believing at one point that he is simply dreaming, another that he is suffering some terrible mental breakdown, and even that, because he believes he taught Gogol and Kafka's work with such conviction, it resulted in him becoming a breast (a lovely satiric dig at Kepesh's/certain academics' belief in their own brilliance and their ability to make an impact on their world through teaching). Highly recommended for fans of the absurd, fantastical, and joyfully original fiction. The only caveat - frankly, a gripe - is the high cost of this as well as its other paperback editions; after all, it's under 100 pages in length! While this could be counterpointed with the idea that perhaps it's not the 'quantity', but the 'quality' that counts, I'd still expect that - for this sort price and paltry number of pages - the buyer has a right to expect a beautiful object/high-quality edition, such as those by, for example, Hesperus Press and Europa, with their French wrapper jackets and quality paper. But please don't take this moan as a justification not to purchase the title - it really is such an original, terrific read, it's still worth the price, despite my more
by bobbygw
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