The Dying Animal
is the latest addition to Philip Roth's already considerable and highly celebrated oeuvre. The protagonist is David Kepesh, a recurring protagonist in Roth's work, having been introduced first in the Kafkaesque 1972 novella, The Breast
, and again in The Professor of Desire
(1979). Kepesh, now a 70-year-old arts critic and lecturer in critical theory, is a sexual adventurer, who feels himself liberated from marriage, children and old school sexual mores by the 1960s sexual revolution, and uses his celebrity and intellectual reputation to seduce the young women that he tutors. Written in the form of a conversational confession, Roth has Kepesh introduce the method of his sexual conquests and then the foil to his method, the beautiful, mannered and busty Consuela Castillo. So begins a description of a descent into the madness of love; "crazy distortions of longing, doting, possessiveness ... this need, this derangement. Will it ever stop?"
. What begins as a chronology of sexual conquest becomes an exquisite meditation on the destructive and addictive nature of love and lust. Notions of social freedom, and sexual emancipation are explored as Kepesh, who for so long has considered himself a free animal, finds himself caged in by his obsession. His journey of sexual discovery becomes one of self-discovery, and as his life journey nears its close he also begins to realise in himself and those around him, "the dying animal" (from Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium"),a different beast to the sexual animal yet still entwined with it through shared flesh.
This is a sexually candid novel, a brave and daring one, a novel that does not blink in the admission that so many of our actions are motivated by the sexual. In this it is reminiscent of the writings of Henry Miller, which are mentioned among the many literary references that populate this book. Every line of Roth's prose brings a desire to read the next; it is brilliantly written, and like the Yeats poem from which it draws inspiration, it is open to much interpretation. --Iain Robinson
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"A fierce, compacted, sometimes brutal meditation on the passing of time and the meaning of freedom" (Daily Telegraph
"Intense and brilliant... Dazzling and compelling" (Sunday Herald
"A small disturbing masterpiece" (David Lodge New York Review of Books
"Written with Roth's familiar elegance and composure" (Sunday Times
"A vicious, furious book...it is also horribly funny and unflinchingly honest" (New Statesman