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.”
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Excerpted from "Shylock Is My Name"
Copyright © 2016 Howard Jacobson.
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Communication is a curious thing, as valuable as gold, as life-saving as a pound of flesh, and as fluid as the life-blood underneath. It's a vital part of fiction, and a complex part of Howard Jacobson's Shylock Is My Name. The author presents readers with two fathers and one father-figure in his modern-day take on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Both fathers talk to their wives, though one wife is dead and the other scarcely lives. Both fathers fail to talk to their daughters—one daughter is gone and the other seems set to leave. Meanwhile the non-father gathers his protégés, struggles to please them and please himself, and despises the Jewishness of the others—though of course, he doesn’t really despise Jews… not unless they get in his way. Childhood slights form the background to adult lives. Child-parent problems redefine themselves, from past to future. Childhood rebellions revert to adulthood’s fears. And the reader is led to ponder, what humor did Shakespeare’s character intend, what anger did he hide, what result did he expect? Indeed, what results do any of us expect when hurts create deep soil for prejudice, in all directions? Shylock is My Name tells vividly of Jewishness in the Gentile society of rural Northern England. But underneath, it tells equally of difference in a world of sameness, of humor and confusion in the face of disaster and loss, and of wrong directions in communication. Relationships either fail or last beyond death in a story that's written with complex art and prose, and conveyed through a wealth of fascinating conversations—which, of course, are never the same as communication. It’s an artful read, sharp, dark, and unforgiven. Disclosure: Blogging for Books provided this book to me and I offer my honest review.
First of all, I love Shakespeare, so this title attracted my attention. It is based, loosely, on the Merchant of Venice. Jacobson uses this story to address antisemitism, as it is addressed a little in the original play. His wit and eye when addressing this is right up there with Shakespeare, even though the Bard's use of these traits was not touched upon quite as much. In this story, the main character, Strulovitch is a well-to-do gentleman who is generous. He is also a Jew who tries to stay on the periphery of the goings on in the city. This does not mean that he has no feelings about the goings on around him. He feels the anger, but he deals with it with humor and wisdom. I cannot say that I enjoyed it as much as I did the original but it was an interesting version of the Merchant of Venice. Readers should be aware of the subjects that are addressed in the book as they may begin to feel uncomfortable. However, this was a well-written book. I was given this book by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
Author Howard Jacobson penned the compelling Shylock is my name in late 2016. Jacobson created his version of Shylock named Simon Strulovitch who is an art dealer and heartbroken Father. What really drew me into this novel was the comedic approach to this story as well as the real life questions. Strulovitch questions not only his identity but how he raised his daughter, grief, heritage and his daughter rejecting the religion in which she was raised. At the beginning of this retelling I will admit I was bored. The story starts in a cemetery and seemed to paint the picture of a man who was lost. Despite the initial boredom I continued on with this novel. The more I read, the more my mind changed. I was unable to put it down by mid novel. The old wives tale of "those who wait will be rewarded" held true in this novel. Without giving away any of Howard Jacobson's craftfully created ending, good things come to those who wait. Lastly, if you are looking for a book to escape into chose this one. I assure you will not be disappointed. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.