Operation Shylock: A Confession

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Overview

What if a look-alike stranger stole your name, usurped your biography, and went about the world pretending to be you? In his extraordinary new book, his most ingenious and original work since Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth confronts his double, an impostor whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews out of Israel and back to Europe, a Moses in reverse and a monstrous nemesis to the "real" Philip Roth. Suspenseful, hilarious, hugely impassioned, pulsing with intelligence and narrative energy, Operation Shylock...
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Operation Shylock: A Confession

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Overview

What if a look-alike stranger stole your name, usurped your biography, and went about the world pretending to be you? In his extraordinary new book, his most ingenious and original work since Portnoy's Complaint, Philip Roth confronts his double, an impostor whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews out of Israel and back to Europe, a Moses in reverse and a monstrous nemesis to the "real" Philip Roth. Suspenseful, hilarious, hugely impassioned, pulsing with intelligence and narrative energy, Operation Shylock is at once a spy story, a political thriller, a meditation on identity, and a confession. This master novelist has never been more demonically brilliant than in the re-creation of his frightening and mysterious journey through the volatile Middle East. Operation Shylock is Philip Roth's twentieth published book - and perhaps his very best.

In this fiendishly imaginative, dizzyingly paced bestseller, Philip Roth meets a man who may or may not be Philip Roth. Someone with that name has been touring the State of Israel, promoting a bizarre exodus in reverse, and it is up to Roth to stop him--even if that means impersonating his impersonator.

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558007956
  • Publisher: NewStar Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: 12 Cassettes
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 2.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Roth

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.

Biography

Philip Roth's long and celebrated career has been something of a thorn in the side of the writer. As it is for so many, fame has been the proverbial double-edged sword, bringing his trenchant tragic-comedies to a wide audience, but also making him a prisoner of expectations and perceptions. Still, since 1959, Roth has forged along, crafting gorgeous variations of the Great American Novel and producing, in addition, an autobiography (The Facts) and a non-fictional account of his father's death (Patrimony: A True Story).

Roth's novels have been oft characterized as "Jewish literature," a stifling distinction that irks Roth to no end. Having grown up in a Jewish household in a lower-middle-class sub-section of Newark, New Jersey, he is incessantly being asked where his seemingly autobiographical characters end and the author begins, another irritant for Roth. He approaches interviewers with an unsettling combination of stoicism, defensiveness, and black wit, qualities that are reflected in his work. For such a high-profile writer, Roth remains enigmatic, seeming to have laid his life out plainly in his writing, but refusing to specify who the real Philip Roth is.

Roth's debut Goodbye, Columbus instantly established him as a significant writer. This National Book Award winner was a curious compendium of a novella that explored class conflict and romantic relationships and five short stories. Here, fully formed in Roth's first outing, was his signature wit, his unflinching insightfulness, and his uncanny ability to satirize his character's situations while also presenting them with humanity. The only missing element of his early work was the outrageousness he would not begin to cultivate until his third full-length novel Portnoy's Complaint -- an unquestionably daring and funny post-sexual revolution comedy that tipped Roth over the line from critically acclaimed writer to literary celebrity.

Even as Roth's personal relationships and his relationship to writing were severely shaken following the success of Portnoy's Complaint, he continued publishing outrageous novels in the vein of his commercial breakthrough. There was Our Gang, a parodic attack on the Nixon administration, and The Breast, a truly bizarre take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, and My Life as a Man, the pivotal novel that introduced Roth's literary alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman.

Zuckerman would soon be the subject of his very own series, which followed the writer's journey from aspiring young artist with lofty goals to a bestselling author, constantly bombarded by idiotic questions, to a man whose most important relationships have all but crumbled in the wake of his success. The Zuckerman Trilogy (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Counterlife) directly paralls Roth's career and unfolds with aching poignancy and unforgiving humor.

Zuckerman would later reemerge in another trilogy, although this time he would largely be relegated to the role of narrator. Roth's American Trilogy (I Married a Communist, the PEN/Faulkner Award winning The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America), shifts the focus to key moments in the history of late-20th –century American history.

In Everyman (2006) , Roth reaches further back into history. Taking its name from a line of 15th-century English allegorical plays, Everyman is classic Roth -- funny, tragic, and above all else, human. It is also yet another in a seemingly unbreakable line of critical favorites, praised by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The Library Journal.

In 2007's highly anticipated Exit Ghost, Roth returned Nathan Zuckerman to his native Manhattan for one final adventure, thus bringing to a rueful, satisfying conclusion one of the most acclaimed literary series of our day. While this may (or may not) be Zuckerman's swan song, it seems unlikely that we have seen the last Philip Roth. Long may he roar.

Good To Know

Before publishing his first novel, Roth wrote an episode of the suspenseful TV classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

A film adaptation of American Pastoral is currently in the works. Australian director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence; Patriot Games) is on board to direct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Philip Milton Roth
    2. Hometown:
      Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 19, 1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 11, 2013

    Perhaps Roth's most underrated novel. I was lucky enough to read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2003

    Bold spy novel of Israel surprisingly topical

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2001

    'Operation Shylock' a Must for Roth Readers

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 1999

    intriguing, but wordy

    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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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