Diasporic Jewish Identity in Ali Badr’s The Tobacco Keeper and Philip Roth’s The Counterlife: A Postmodern Approach

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 6-1-2015


Postmodernism is difficult to define because to define it would violate the postmodernist's premise that no definite terms or absolute truths exist. Characterized by fragmentation, discontinuity, self-reference, hyper-reality, ambiguity, literary allusions and collage of juxtaposed places, figures and narratives, postmodern fiction challenges its readers who, rather than enjoying it passively, are required to work hard to construct its meaning. This is the experience that readers of Ali Badr’s The Tobacco Keeper (2011) and Philip Roth’s The Counterlife (1986) should be prepared for. Both novelists challenge their readers with fragmented narratives, but while Badr plainly tells his readers at the very beginning of The Tobacco Keeper that the novel presents three different stories of the same personality, Roth leaves his readers to discover in the third chapter of The Counterlife that the story they have been reading is only a fictional work written by a dead character, Zuckerman, the chief protagonist of the tetralogy collected as Zuckerman Bound and published before The Counterlife.