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Operation Shylock: A Confession Paperback – 16 Jun 1994


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (16 Jun 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009930791X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099307914
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004". Recently Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

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Review

"A very buoyant book, part truth, part fiction, combining sophistication with an equally beguiling vulgarity...it does leave one relishing it and wanting to read more" (Spectator)

"Subtle, funny and furious...Operation Shylock is no mere scrapbook of Roth's favourite topics, but a hefty encyclopaedia... In Roth's canny hands, nothing succeeds like excess" (Observer)

Book Description

'Subtle, funny and furious' - Observer

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 April 2001
Format: Paperback
'Operation Shylock' shows Philip Roth writing at his very best. It has all the ingedients you expect from a vintage Roth read: the ferocious humour, the taut style, the obsessive self analysis and the modernist concern with the status of the author. But 'Operation Shylock' is more than a simple rewriting of 'Portnoy's Complaint'. Roth's agonized engagement with his Jewish identity is as powerful as ever, but given breadth in this novel by an examination of the conflicts between Jews and Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories which is by turns tragic and bitterly comic. The two leading characters of this novel are the novelist Philip Roth and the crazed Jewish activist...Philip Roth! The book begins with Roth discovering that he is being impersonated in Jerusalem by a man who is using his physical resemblance to the novelist for strange purposes of his own. By including not only himself but also his double in the book, Roth is able to masterfully explore how Jews might be (literally) in two minds over Israel. While we are enjoying the wonderful farce of Roth's attempts to track down and confront the fake Roth- which reads like Kafka with jokes- we are also taken on a highly intelligent tour of Palestine which always conveys that there are two sides to war in the Middle East. There are many things to admire in this book: the seamless mixing of fact and fiction, clear sighted sketches of aggrieved Palestinians and Holocaust survivors as well as breath takingly wild flights of fantasy. But above all (what is hardest to convey in a review) there is a delight in the possibilities of language to argue a case or to crack jokes, to stir up anger or simply to delight in its own cleverness. Experience it now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lina on 24 Oct 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book over five years ago, and have read several Philip Roth books since, but this book made such an impression on me, that I still remember specific scenes, plots, and statements from it. This book, although often quite forgotten in the extensive bibliography of Roth, is one of the writer's best offerings. It shows Roth at his strongest, in terms of originality, depth, and insight into his own internal dilemmas. This book is great because it does not just simply tell a story; it makes a powerful, dangerous and fascinating contribution to the world of politics, and it does so elegantly, cleverly and with unmatched sophistication. For want of other words, this book is important.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Philip Roth's 1993 novel Operation Shylock is an eminently readable, though undeniably at times confusing, literary mix of (apparent) fact and fiction and a biting satire on human identity (primarily that of Philip Roth). In the book, Roth uses the premise of a relatively traditional, albeit also fantastic, political thriller, but layers on top of this his all too familiar obsessions of the art of the novelist, human mortality and his (potentially contradictory) views on the Jewish question.

For the core narrative of Operation Shylock, Roth narrates as himself, who, recovering from a mental breakdown, travels to Israel to interview a fellow Jewish novelist. Here he discovers that another person, also calling himself Philip Roth, has been touring the country espousing anti-semitic views, effectively in his name. At the same time, the real-life trial of alleged war criminal John (Ivan the Terrible) Demjanjuk is also taking place in Jerusalem. Roth uses these devices, and the associated characters, to develop the novel's themes around the confusion of identity - whether this be that of a war criminal, the Jewish state, or of Roth himself. At the end of the novel Roth suggests that he (the character in the novel) has, in fact, been sent to Israel to gather intelligence for Mossad (the Israeli intelligence service).

Given the apparent blurring of fact and fiction in Operation Shylock, Roth appears to add some clarity as to the basis of the book by declaring at the end that it is a work of fiction. However, Roth has separately claimed that he did actually undertake such a spying mission for Mossad (presumably another piece of Roth fantasy).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By REB on 3 Mar 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Roth's prose is unquestionably of the top tier, superbly accurate and well written. I have to admit, however, to not finding him especially funny, as other admirers profess to. He is witty, yes, and frequently comic, and for the most part amusing, but actually funny - well only just. No part of this book made me do anything more than smile. Furthermore, the self-referentiality of using himself as the central character can grate at times, although in compensation, it does allow him to explore difficult themes (of Jewish identity and its relation to the Israeli state) in a way that made immediate, personal sense to me as a reader. This is the triumph of Roth's writing here: a rendering of complexities that never collapses back into reassuring political simplicities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William Jordan on 19 Sep 2010
Format: Paperback
One of the joys of starting to read a novel by Philip Roth is that you do not know what to expect. This one is purportedly autobiographical - but it doesn't seem so likely to be genuinely autobiographical as, say, Patrimony (about his father). There's the author writing some years after the date at which the book is set, Philip Roth as protagonist, then another "Philip Roth" who is the double of Philip Roth who turns up in Jerusalem at the same time as the "real" Roth, with a bizarre plan for saving the Jews from their next nuclear conflict with the Arabs...and there are encounters with a friend from Roth's student days 30 years on, who has - apparently (though is it all a front?) - become a paranoid zealot, taking on the griefs of his father - and with Mossad (who orginally turn up in disguised form).

All in all, a tour de force. But, for me, not such an enjoyable tour de force as some of his earlier work (Our Gang is a great political satire). For the theme of encountering a double, Jose Saramago's The Double is more entertaining (though this is good); for the rights and wrongs of the Middle East, probably best not to seek out fiction! Worth reading, but may be best to start elsewhere with Roth...for example My Life as A Man.
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