This novella is a both a radical, as well as whimsical, sketch of a man’s transformation into a mammary gland. Said mammary gland is the general ovoid shape and size of a porpoise.
As implausible as it sounds, this concept of ‘magic realism’ has been explored in Gogol’s “The Nose” and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”. Whereas the former is symbolic of a man’s perceived emasculation and impotence, the latter is famous for its grotesqueness and bureaucratic red-tapism.
Realistically speaking, as a doctor, I would consider this ‘condition’ or transmogrification (a la Calvin and Hobbes) to be a major somatization disorder.
The author ruminates his dilemma in the ironical: “I suspect that it’s a little late for that, and so it is not with this hope springing eternally in the human breast that the human breast continues to want to be.”
Then Roth offers a conundrum about the transmutation: “…why, of all things, I had chosen a breast. Why a brainless bag of dumb, desirable tissue, acted upon instead of acting, unguarded, immobile, hanging, there, as a breast simply hangs and is there? Why this primitive identification with the object of primitive veneration? What unfulfilled appetites, what cradle confusions, what fragments out of my remotest past could have collided to spark a delusion of such classical simplicity?”