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Portnoy's Complaint

novel jewish alexander sexual

a novel by Philip Roth, published in 1969. An immediate bestseller, this novel scandalized moralists with its focus on a protagonist who displays an insatiable desire for sexual adventure and erotic novelty. It further caused anger among Jewish circles with its unflattering contemporary clichés about Jews. The novel charts Alexander Portnoy's attempt to break the Oedipal bond with his mother, Sophie, and her overbearing, claustrophobic Jewish domestic ethos. Endeavouring to fight what his upbringing has taught him is irreconcilable, ‘to be bad—and to enjoy it’, Alexander concludes that masturbation is his sole release and this leads him to the kinkiest of schemes, albeit constantly torn by his conscience. The entire novel takes place as the rambling confessions of Alex on the psychoanalyst's couch, and this highlights the novel's concerns with psychological and sexual conflict and repression. As a satire on Jewish-American life, this Freudian tale of arrested development is bizarrely comic, yet also frustrated and angry.

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