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Operation Shylock: A Confession

Operation Shylock: A Confession

4.2 4
by Philip Roth

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Time Magazine Best American Novel (1993)

In this fiendishly imaginative book (which may or may not be fiction), Philip Roth meets a man who may or may not be Philip Roth. Because someone with that name has been touring Israel, promoting a bizarre reverse exodus of the Jews. Roth is intent on stopping him, even if that means impersonating


Time Magazine Best American Novel (1993)

In this fiendishly imaginative book (which may or may not be fiction), Philip Roth meets a man who may or may not be Philip Roth. Because someone with that name has been touring Israel, promoting a bizarre reverse exodus of the Jews. Roth is intent on stopping him, even if that means impersonating his own impersonator.

With excruciating suspense, unfettered philosophical speculation, and a cast of characters that includes Israeli intelligence agents, Palestinian exiles, an accused war criminal, and an enticing charter member of an organization called Anti-Semites Anonymous, Operation Shylock barrels across the frontier between fact and fiction, seriousness and high comedy, history and nightmare.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of Roth's grand inventions.... [He is] a comic genius...a living master." —Harold Bloom, The New York Review of Books

"The uncontested master of comic irony." —Time magazine

"A devilish book, nervously exuding a kind of delirious brilliance like sweat at every pore, and madly comic." —Alfred Kazin

"A brilliant novel of ideas...Roth has gone farther into his own genius than he ever has before." —Ted Solotaroff, The Nation

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Roth's brilliant, absurdist novel, set in Jerusalem during the trial of John Demjanjuk, follows the intersecting paths of two characters who share Roth's name and impersonate one another with dizzying speed. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The drama of Jewish survival takes a new twist in this novel, but Rothean ideas persist: all humans make fiction, man betrays and fulfills his father's dream; an artist's doubt is his integrity; Jews test freedom (in the West from exclusion and prejudice, in Israel from temptations of power); embattled Israel dramatizes the nationalisms that drive history, with the Holocaust their persistent threat. Here, through a pseudo-autobiographical escapade in intifada Israel during the ``Ivan the Terrible'' trial, a writer confronts his double. Playing off recent autobiography, Roth gives his fictive protagonist, ``Philip Roth,'' the author's known career. Led into Mossad intrigue to defend Jewish security and his writer's integrity, this ``Roth'' chews the cud of these tortuous themes and is at times as baffled as Kafka's K. Using ``Philip Roth'' as an irritant to thought, Roth will make some readers steam. By midway he is telegraphing his punches, and his sparkling absurdity dissolves in perseveration. Recommended for public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92; Roth reported in the New York Times , March 9, 1993, that all events depicted in this book are in fact true but that the Mossad insisted that he bill it as fiction.--Ed.-- Alan Cooper, York Coll . , CUNY
Kirkus Reviews
Roth has worked out so frequently and acrobatically with fictional versions of himself that his entanglement here with a doppelg„nger insisting that he's Philip Roth—a double whose visionary "diasporism" gets the hapless narrator tied up in plots engineered by the Mossad, the PLO, and God knows who else—is as logical as it is frenetically funny. Arriving in Jerusalem just after a hallucinatory withdrawal from Halcion, Roth is comically vulnerable to the double who's using his striking resemblance to the novelist to curry favor and raise money for his reverse-Zionist project: to return all Ashkenazic Jews from Israel, where fundamentalist Muslims threaten them with extinction, to the relatively benign cities of Europe. When Roth threatens legal action against the double, whom he christens Moishe Pipik, Pipik sends opulent, dyslexic Chicago oncology nurse Wanda Jane "Jinx" Possesski, a charter member of Pipik's Anti-Semites Anonymous, to intercede for him. Roth, falling in lust with this latest shiksa, finds himself slipping into Pipik's identity, spouting off diasporist speeches, and unwittingly accepting a million-dollar check for the diasporist cause from crippled philanthropist Louis B. Smilesburger. A zany ride back to Jerusalem from Ramallah, where he's incidentally delivered a loony, impassioned anti-Zionist tirade, ends with Roth rescued by a young lieutenant seeking a letter of recommendation to NYU, and the check lost or stolen. As he takes in the Israeli trial of John Demjanjuk, Roth ponders Pipik's insistence that "I AM THE YOU THAT IS NOT WORDS" and, under challenge from every side, questions his notorious Jewish self- hatred. Still ahead: antiquarian DavidSupposnik's request that Roth write an introduction to Leon Klinghoffer's recently discovered travel diaries, Roth's kidnapping, and his agreeing to undertake a secret mission in Athens for the Mossad. A deliberately anticlimactic epilogue substitutes for the final chapter that would have described the secret mission. No matter: rarely have fact and fiction, personal confession and wild imaginings, led such a deeply, unnervingly comic dance.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
First Vintage International Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.78(d)

Meet 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 awards: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American novelist to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 19, 1933
Place of Birth:
Newark, New Jersey
B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

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Operation Shylock: A Confession 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
NathanDPhillips More than 1 year ago
Perhaps Roth's most underrated novel. I was lucky enough to read this novel in Israel, across the street from where Philip Roth the character (Or is he a character?) in the novel was staying. It made for a surreal experience.   Roth's voice in "Shylock" is as honed as ever. Perhaps even more so due to the hallucinogens the character takes at the beginning.  Others have pointed out that, at its heart, it's a spy novel. This point is well made. I have read much of John le Carre, Ludlum, and Clancy and I must say that they have never kept me on my toes or so far toward the edge of my metaphorical seat than Roth did with this novel. A near infinite amount of twist and turns will keep you pleasantly baffled. The language is spiced. Lovers of Roth's perversity (if it can be called that) will be pleased. At the end of the novel, I wanted to re-read it immediately. It still reigns as my favorite Roth. I think it will be yours as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While this was written in 1992, published in 1993, the antagonist in the plot is really the mess that Israel, Roth believes, had become. A prescient expose of what the Palestinian historical presence, and Israel's military response to it, has done to rip apart the soul and purpose of that once idealistic society. And of course the events of the past 11 years have only proven him right. But I primarily recommend the book because Roth is funny, clever, brilliant, can write with great suspense and humor at the same time. He is perhaps, indeed probably, the greatest of all living American novelists, and here is at his very best. And the most impressive thing about him is that recent novels show he is still in peak form nearly 45 years after writing his first bestseller. Operation Shylock is one of his very best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 'Operatin Shylock,' the reader enters the mind of Philip Roth as he puts himself as the protagonist in this excellant novel. It can be a tough read, though. However, anyone who loved 'The Counterlife' should definately look into this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I realize Roth is considered a master stylist, but OS's plot was strong enough on its own. Mr. Roth needed not to show off his erudition. Recommended for those familiar with Jewish issues/customs.