- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Hogarth (4 February 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1781090289
- ISBN-13: 978-1781090282
- Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.8 x 22.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,59,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Shylock is My Name: The Merchant of Venice Retold (Hogarth Shakespeare) Hardcover – 4 Feb 2016
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"For him to write about and inside of The Merchant of Venice seems to me a marriage made in heaven" (Stephen Greenblatt)
"Inspired...It does what any good literary subversion should do: deepens and enhances one's appreciation of the original." (James Lasdun Guardian)
"Jacobson’s writing is virtuoso. He is the master of shifting tones, from the satirical to the serious. His prose has the sort of elastic precision you only get from a writer who is truly in command … There's also deep and sincere soul-searching going on here" (Lucasta Miller Independent)
"A brilliant conceit… A powerful reimagining and reinvention of Shakespeare’s character." (Adam Lively The Sunday Times)
"Howard Jacobson’s reworking of The Merchant of Venice is a sly success… Irascible, eloquent Shylock is a man transplanted from the play to today." (Tim Martin Daily Telegraph)
"Shylock is My Name has much to tell us about loss, identity and modern antisemitism ... Simon's debates with Shylock, snapshots of a man haranguing his literary Creator, are the heart of this book, knowing and humane" (Kate Maltby The Times)
"Jacobson is clearly enjoying himself, savouring the play’s puzzles like a connoisseur with a complex wine, luxuriating in its themes of love, vengeance, forgiveness and justice, exploring what it means to be Jewish, then and now… Provocative, caustic and bold." (Rebecca Adams Financial Times)
"An unusually engaged form of literary criticism ... Jacobson treats Shylock less as a product of Shakespeare's culture and imagination than as a real historical figure emblematic of Jewish experience" (Anthony Cummins Prospect)
"Supremely stylish, probing and unsettling… Jacobson's writing is virtuoso. He is a master of shifting tones, from the satirical to the serious. His prose has the sort of elastic precision you only get from a writer who is truly in command." (Irish Independent)
"A shrewd and powerful examination of what is means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being, this is another witty and thought-provoking tale from Jacobson." (Sebastian Shakespeare Tatler)
Man Booker Prize-winner and our great chronicler of Jewish life revisits Shakespeare's The Merchant of VeniceSee all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Shylock is a mesmerizing character and the author portrays him as every bit of the complex character he is. I live the Hogarth Shakespeare series and this is a wonderful addition to it.
I had last encountered Howard Jacobson when I read his Man Booker Prize winner, The Finkler Question, in which he ruminated at length and often with considerable humor upon what it means to be a Jew and on the roots of anti-Semitism. In many ways, this book is a continuation of that contemplation. It seems to me that Jacobson was the perfect writer to tackle the assignment of exploring the character of Shylock in all its complexities.
He chooses to do this by materializing Shylock in a cemetery in northwestern England in the 21st century with the personality that Shakespeare gave him fully intact. Shylock appears there, in conversation with his dead wife Leah, as the philanthropist and art collector Simon Strulovitch has come to inspect the newly erected tombstone over his mother's grave.
Shylock is in the habit of having daily conversations with Leah in cemeteries or gardens, bringing her up to date on all the news and pouring out the contents of his heart to her. Strulovitch sees Shylock in the cemetery and invites him home with him and the two begin engaging in extended colloquies about the nature of Jewishness and what it is to be an observant or unobservant Jew in the modern world. The conversations crackle with both tartness and humor as they consider the tensions of the father-daughter relationship and and the quandary of being a Jew both in Shylock's time and in the modern era.
Gradually, it becomes clear that Strulovitch is a kind of modern doppelganger for Shylock. The challenges of Strulovitch's life mirror those of Shakespeare's creation. The plot, in fact, is reflective in all major aspects of Shakespeare's play, with some subtle differences of emphasis. All of the best-known characters and all of the plot devices of The Merchant of Venice can be found here in one form or another. We even see Strulovitch/Shylock demanding his "pound of flesh" in quite a unique and unexpected fashion.
My favorite parts of the book were the philosophical conversations between Strulovitch and his house guest, Shylock. These are sharp-edged verbal fencing matches which give Jacobson a chance to fully display his wit, not to mention his appreciation of the English language - and occasionally of Hebrew.
My second favorite parts - a close second - were Shylock's conversations with his dead wife. These are tender and filled with a different, gentler kind of wit and they help us to see the full humanity of Shylock.
The original Shakespeare play was a bit of comedy and a bit of tragedy. Jacobson has reimagined it with an emphasis on the comedy. It works very well in those terms.