The Counterlife - Part 1 Basel, pages 3-13 Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Counterlife.
This section contains 459 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Part 1 Basel, pages 3-13 Summary

The Counterlife tells multiple versions of the same story. It begins with the story of Henry Zuckerman, who has been diagnosed with a heart problem.

Henry, a successful dentist, is diagnosed as being at risk of a heart attack. Henry's doctor prescribes medication, and soon Henry complains about the side effects. The most troublesome side effect for Henry is sexual impotence. Henry is unable to have sexual relations with either his wife, Carol, or his mistress and dental assistant, Wendy. Over a period of months, the impotence causes Henry to be depressed. He wants to consider surgery as an option, but the doctor advises against that course because of the dangers.

Henry remembers an affair he had with a Swiss woman named Maria ten years earlier, and this makes him feel more depressed. He travels from his home in New Jersey to New York to visit his brother Nathan. Henry has tried to talk to his wife, but she does not seem to understand why he wants to consider surgery. Henry tries to call Nathan, but he hangs up. He tries to leave a note for Nathan, but he tears it up. Henry walks in Central Park and cries. He thinks about the poor relationship he has with his brother, who is a successful writer. Nathan had revealed some family secrets in one of his books, and that caused the poor relationship between the brothers.

Henry visits Wendy, and he is unable to have sex with her. When he returns home, he discovers that Carol has been so worried that she notified the police of his absence. Henry wonders if the cause for his stress and his heart condition started with having to give up his affair with Maria. Henry is more determined to have the surgery, despite the doctor's advice against it. In the evening, Henry telephones Nathan.

Part 1 Basel, pages 3-13 Analysis

The novel opens with a third person narrative. For some reason not yet revealed, this opening narrative is in italics, unlike the remainder of the book. The main character of the narrative is Henry, a successful dentist in his late thirties. Henry's response to the news of his heart condition and the side effects of the medication have a significant effect on his psychological well being. He seems frantic and desperate the day that he goes to visit his brother, and he seems conflicted and unable to decide what to do. He calls numbers he see written in a telephone booth, he hangs up instead of waiting for his brother to answer the telephone, and he shows up unannounced at the residence of his mistress only to act in an even more bizarre manner.

This section contains 459 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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