Operation Shylock

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Philip Roth - Operation Shylock: A Confession (Simon and Schuster, 1993). 399 pages.

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One of Roth's most highly praised novels, this one is about a narrator named Philip Roth who discovers that someone calling himself "Philip Roth" is seeking to lead the Jews out of Israel and back to Europe.


A Moses in reverse and a man whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews out of Israel and back to Europe is at the center of this meditation on identity.

Amazon Review

Philip Roth's very literary novels, most famously Portnoy's Complaint, have always had the feel of confessional autobiography. Operation Shylock boasts not only a character named Philip Roth, a Jewish-American novelist, but an impostor who is claiming to be him. Roth's impostor causes a furor in Israel by advocating "Diasporism," the polar opposite of Zionism, encouraging Israelis to return home to eastern Europe. In Israel the real Roth attends the trial of a former Nazi, and also observes at a West Bank military court dealing harshly with young Palestinians. Through stark counterpoint between distorted doubles, along with his trademark bawdy humor, Roth comically explores the tensions of his identity as a writer, as a Jew, and as a human being. Operation Shylock won the PEN/Faulkner Award for 1994.

From Publishers Weekly

In yet another audacious spin on the doppelganger theme, Roth's dazzling, maddening and brilliant new novel offers two characters that bear his name: one a famous author called Philip Roth, the other an impostor who brazenly impersonates the "real" Philip Roth. Convinced that Israel will be destroyed by the Arab nations, the pretender has assumed Roth's identity in order to publicize his scheme to establish a new diaspora that will lead Jews out of Israel and back to their pre-Holocaust cultural roots in Europe. Roth's familiar tactic of fictionalizing the truth, such as it is, has the reader continually on edge, wondering what here is based on fact and what is "the sacrosanct prank of artistic transubstantiation." The novel is set in Jerusalem during the trial of John Demjanjuk (who claimed he was not Ivan the Terrible, but merely a man who resembled the sadistic concentration-camp guard). Roth also refers to the trial of Shakespeare's Shylock, whose name the narrator gives to what he concludes is an Israeli intelligence operation that has manipulated the series of bizarre experiences in which he finds himself. Other actual figures represented in the story include Aharon Appelfeld (whose interview with the author is reprinted from the original in the New York Times Book Review ), Jonathan Pollard (accused of spying for Israel) and Leon Klinghoffer (the victim of the Achille Lauro highjacking). Among the fictional characters, there's a nurse called Wanda Jane "Jinx" Possesski, whose two-sided personality matches her name; and handicapped Mr. Smilesburger, who is definitely not what he seems. The plot is like a house of mirrors; the narrator and his fraudulent twin impersonate each other with dizzying speed, which allows Roth to present the reverse side of every argument his characters make. He deliberately courts shock value: the events he depicts are both comical and horrible, often simultaneously; his characters' views are extremist and even bizarre. But Roth is dead serious. He leads readers through the absurdist plot with an impassioned argument about the eternal issue of the Jew in a largely Christian culture. Ingenious and provocative, this novel marks yet another achievement for a writer whose stock in trade is taking risks. 		
Operation Shylock/Operation Shylock_ A Confession - Philip Roth.pdf 3.21 MB
Operation Shylock/Operation Shylock_ A Confession - Philip Roth.jpg 80.145 KB
Operation Shylock/Operation Shylock_ A Confession - Philip Roth.opf 7.348 KB
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