Goodbye, Columbus

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Goodbye_columbus.jpg
Goodbye, Columbus book cover (1999 UK edition)

Goodbye, Columbus (1959) is the title of the first book of fiction published by the American novelist Philip Roth. In addition to its title novella, set in New Jersey, Goodbye, Columbus contains the five short stories The Conversion of the Jews, Defender of the Faith, Epstein, You Can't Tell a Man by the Song He Sings, and Eli, the Fanatic. Each story deals with the problems and concerns of second and third-generation assimilated American Jews as they leave the ethnic ghettos of their parents and grandparents and go on to college, the white-collar professions, and life in the suburbs.


Goodbye, Columbus was a critical success for Roth, winning the 1960 National Book Award and earning a name for him as a talented up-and-coming young writer. Still, the book was not without controversy, as certain elements in the Jewish community took issue with Roth's less than flattering portrayal of some of his characters. The short story Defender of the Faith, about a Jewish drill sergeant who is exploited by three shirking, co-religionist draftees, drew particular ire. When Roth in 1962 appeared on a panel alongside the distinguished black novelist Ralph Ellison to discuss minority representation in literature, the questions directed at him soon turned into denunciations. Thus the charges of self-hatred that have dogged Roth throughout his career have their origins from its very beginning. And it is often speculated that the wildly obscene comedy of Portnoy's Complaint was Roth's defiant reply to his early Jewish critics.


In 1969 the novel was made into a somewhat critically well-received film of the same name.

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