Shylock Is My Name

Shylock Is My Name

The Merchant of Venice Retold

Book - 2016
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Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson brings his singular brilliance to this modern re-imagining of one of Shakespeare's most unforgettable characters: Shylock

Winter, a cemetery, Shylock. In this provocative and profound interpretation of "The Merchant of Venice," Shylock is juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. With characteristic irony, Jacobson presents Shylock as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge.

While Strulovich struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice's "betrayal" of her family and heritage - as she is carried away by the excitement of Manchester high society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute on the field - Shylock alternates grief for his beloved wife with rage against his own daughter's rejection of her Jewish upbringing. Culminating in a shocking twist on Shylock's demand for the infamous pound of flesh, Jacobson's insightful retelling examines contemporary, acutely relevant questions of Jewish identity while maintaining a poignant sympathy for its characters and a genuine spiritual kinship with its antecedent--a drama which Jacobson himself considers to be "the most troubling of Shakespeare's plays for anyone, but, for an English novelist who happens to be Jewish, also the most challenging."
Publisher: London ; New York : Hogarth, 2016
Edition: First United States edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780804141321
Characteristics: 275 pages ; 21 cm


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Jun 01, 2016

I liked this retelling of The Merchant of Venice. Howard Jacobson is one of the best people to take on this troublesome play, other than Phillip Roth, which he sort of did with Operation Shylock. Anyway, the best part(s) of the book for me were the conversations between Strulovitch and "Shylock" (I was never quite sure whether Shylock was a ghost, or an actual corporeal presence). Very reminiscent of "The Finkler Question", which I enjoyed. I would have liked the book a lot more if it consisted of just these conversations, and not the somewhat clumsy and unappealing recreation of the plot of The Merchant of Venice--but I suspect Hogarth knew that that wouldn't have mass market appeal.

Bunny_Watson716 Mar 31, 2016

Fantastic! Erudite, witty, and thought provoking writing with lots to ponder thanks to the presence of Shylock in present day Manchester.

KateHillier Mar 23, 2016

We're in the second book of this series of Shakespeare reimagings from Hogarth and though I may not being loving them so far I am enjoying them. I was especially excited about this one being the second one up since it's a play I've read, a play I love, and a play have mixed feelings about liking for a bunch of reasons I won't go into here. This rendering by Howard Jacobson definitely brings up a lot of those thoughts.

Jacobson has characters that are stand ins for the classic characters here as you would expect: art dealer Simon, wild daughter Beatrice, reality tv mediator Plurabelle, etc. Shylock himself is also present, however. At first I thought he was just a hallucination of Simon's (who is a Shakespeare fan) but other characters interact with him as well. At first I was confused but it really works as Shylock speaks for himself, both what we see in the play and what we don't, and at people. Jewish and non alike. I imagine reading the book as a Jewish person would be an entirely different experience. Especially considering such emphasis is based on being Jewish when the family in question doesn't really practice.

It's really quite fascinating, the series as a whole so far and this entry in particular.

FindingJane Dec 17, 2015

This book epitomizes struggle, so much so that there’s nary a peaceful chapter within it. The protagonists battle it out over various issues—the relationships between fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, lovers and would-be spouses, Jew and Christian, antagonists over plots of land. The pages are filled with so much saber rattling you actually expect another war to break out. There is contention here that builds slowly and inexorably, like a Greek tragedy. In an era where everybody bends backwards in the name of political correctness, the amount of rampant bigotry in these pages is jaw-dropping in its bluntness. This reader wonders why someone doesn’t simply apologize before matters get so drastically out of hand only to realize that matters escalate so quickly and the simplest words are so easily misconstrued that apologies aren’t enough or swiftly become untenable.

Acting as mediator (or mischief maker) is Shakespeare’s Shylock. His appearance is both mystical and oddly matter of fact. It’s as if you went shopping and found a post-marital Juliet fretting over what to fix her husband Romeo for dinner. How he appears out of the pages of his play is never explained but he brings to Strulovitch’s dilemma all the incisive intelligence and bitterness you would expect of his Shakespearean origin. The book thus inflates his character and gives it a depth and insight that Shakespeare didn’t have the space or inclination to manage.

While the book occasionally gets bogged down in analytical and didactic conversation among its main protagonists, you can’t help but get dragged into the debate. Though not much bigger than most paperbacks, the book resists easy or swift reading. You must slow down and ponder as you move through these pages. Like the age-old Jew-Christian conflict, you are left with no clear solutions and an unsettled feeling, as though Shylock has somehow dogged your footsteps.


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