Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories Background

Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories Background

Published in 1959, Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Short Stories was Philip Roth's first book. It contains one novella (Goodbye, Columbus) and five short stories, all of which are semi-autobiographical in nature.

Goodbye, Columbus itself takes place in New Jersey--specifically in Newark, Roth's hometown. The novella and all of the stories focus on the experiences of "second and third-generation assimilated American Jews as they leave the ethnic ghettos of their parents and grandparents and go on to college, to white-collar professions, and to life in the suburbs."

The stories explore the tension between Jewish tradition and the expectations older Jewish members place on younger Jews, and the assimilation of the younger, second- and third- generation Jews into mainstream, middle-class American society. Roth portrays assimilation as a way of shedding the burden of the aforementioned traditions and expectations.

Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Short Stories was a controversial work within the American Jewish community. Many took issue with his portrayal of certain characters and accused Roth of reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jewish people. Some even accused him of being a "self-hating Jew." However, the book was still met with critical acclaim--in 1960, it won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. Nine years later, it was adapted as an award-winning film starring Jewish-American actors Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw.

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