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Operation Shylock

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  3,021 Ratings  ·  192 Reviews
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 excruciat
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 15th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Despite having read Operation Shylock: A Confession many years ago, I can easily remember having thoroughly enjoyed this brilliant novel with its autobiographical or confessional touches. Philip Roth gifts the reader a supreme narrative with satirical humor and provocation, and a plot that plays with the idea of the author and his double inside it all. Although it's certainly not an easy read, probably controversial, it makes you think and for me it was more than worth the effort.

Let Phillip Ro
Jun 29, 2011 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2014
“Look, I've got more personalities than I can use already. All you are is one too many.”
― Philip Roth, Operation Shylock: A Confession


This is where the late, great Roth run began. Operation Shylock started what might just be the greatest series of great books by one author I can think of:

Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993)
Sabbath's Theater (1995)
American Pastoral (1997)
I Married a Communist (1998)
The Human Stain (2000)

Like I tend to do with great writers, I back into their early greats. I re
Michael Finocchiaro
Highly inventive, Operation Shylock is a long questioning of identity and legitimacy. It has a rather complex web of characters and you never are quite sure who is real and who isn't. I enjoyed reading it, but it felt a bit unfinished (although the Epilogue attempts to explain why) and so I will probably have to revisit the book again in the future to sound its depths further. I found American Pastoral and The Human Stain more entertaining books to be honest and since GR doesn't offer 1/2 stars, ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 25, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I've said so many rude things about Philip Roth here, you know, what a sexist fucker he is, just the standard stuff, nothing surprising. He had been pretty expert in getting my goat. I waded through Americal pastoral and Sabbath's Theatre, great god almighty what crap. Oh yes, he can turn a rare sentence & make the English language dance like a five ball juggler, he's annoyingly brilliant at that. Pity he can't think of a half-decent story with some humanity about it. But here is the book th ...more
Jan Rice
Dec 18, 2012 Jan Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, them-and-us
Remember the movie "Being John Malkovich?" Some characters discover a portal into John Malkovich's head, through which they can see the world as he does. Then John Malkovich enters into John Malkovich's head, and things really get weird. John Malkovich multiplied and turned back upon himself! That gives an inkling of this book, only with Philip Roth instead.

When I was a child I thought I would be an artist but I had zero self-confidence. When I hit high school and saw that others could draw as w
Artemis Slipknot
Ενώ ξεκίνησε με πολύ καλές προοπτικές, τελικά κατάφερε να με κουράσει! Εξαιρετική η γραφή του συγγραφέα, αλλά σαν υπόθεση για μένα έκανε κοιλία σε αρκετά σημεία.
Mar 05, 2015 [P] rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was twenty-one I left home, I left the north, and moved in with a Scottish woman, a friend of the mother of my then-girlfriend. I’d got a job in Leamington Spa and needed a place to stay. The morning after moving in I woke up and still in my underwear went to the bathroom to brush my teeth etc. As I made to leave, however, the door handle came off in my hand. I was stuck. The house was empty. I was in there two hours, contemplating jumping, until I managed to convince [with difficulty] a ...more
Mar 10, 2017 Stratos rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Το παράτησα στη μέση! Τι δουλειά είχα στις Εβραϊκές φυλές, στις διαφορές τους και σε άλλα τέτοια. Ενδεχομένως κάποιους να ενδιαφέρουν αλλά για μας τους ... απέξω τα πράγματα ήταν πολύ δυσνόητα!
Dec 05, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It says something about American political culture that “Operation Shylock” is Roth’s most controversial work. The sexual transgressions no longer warrant mention in major reviews (even the veiled necrophilia of “Sabbath’s Theater” goes without a rebuke) and anti-NY intellectual jeremiads have long since migrated to legacy admission neo-conservatives. Yet, a satire of American Jews’ relationship to Israel still can bring the gears of the New York Review of Books grinding to a halt. Roth’s books ...more
David M
Jul 07, 2016 David M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Roth's two great themes are masturbation and his own fabulous success at having written a book about masturbation.

I don't mean that entirely as a knock. The first of these, at least, is obviously a very important subject. I'm of the opinion Portnoy's Complaint is one of the funniest books ever written. Still I feel like I pretty quickly reach a point of diminishing returns when I read Roth. His focus is just so narrow. In Operation Shylock he tries to branch out a little by bringing in the legac
Mike Witcombe
Jul 08, 2011 Mike Witcombe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps Roth's best book, and definitely the best novel about modern Israel to date. Frustrating, dense and unapologetically complicated, Roth rewards patient readers with a multilayered satire about identity, embodiment and rhetoric.

It's a sprawling epic, a tour de force in the best possible tradition. I've read it half a dozen times, got a quote from it tattooed on my arm, spent thousands of dissertation words getting to grips with it - and I still love it beyond reason.

For those new to Roth,
Mar 24, 2007 Conrad rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned
Philip Roth being somewhat hit-or-miss, this one was a miss. It's about a writer named Philip Roth (paging Paul Auster...) who is being impersonated by another Philip Roth who has a political agenda the real Roth finds toxic: getting Jews to leave Israel en masse. The rhetoric and doubling is so dense that it's impossible to figure out, in the end, which side the book falls on, or why we should care in the first place. This is Roth lost in his own museum.
Jim Leffert
When Kinky Friedman writes a detective novel in which the main character, the detective, is a humorist and musical performer named Kinky Friedman, we have a perfectly clear understanding that what the book recounts isn’t truly autobiographical. Not so when Philip Roth writes a novel that purports to be a non-fiction memoir by Philip Roth.

The recent PBS homage prompted me to turn again to this author of books I previously admired, such as American Pastoral (a 20th century reworking of the Book of
Dec 31, 2016 Louise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Philip Roth reads in the NYTimes that Philip Roth is leading a movement to create a new Diaspora to repatriate Israel’s Ashkenazi Jews to their counties of origin. Roth was headed to Israel for an interview so planned to see what was up with this. Roth found that the Diaspora advocate not only has his name, he looks like him.

The plot is mad cap. It has the clever twists and the apt phrasings Roth is famous for but delivers no out loud laughs or fully comic scenes.

The setting is the late 1980’s
While Philip Roth is in Israel interviewing another writer, he has to confront another Philip Roth, one who is preaching Diasporism. He also has to deal with the Mossad and a Palestinian friend who confuses the real Roth for the fake Roth.

Despite the potential for an interesting espionage novel, Roth chooses not to focus on plot. While the potential is there to develop an interesting and detailed story, I'd say the plot component is noticeably shorter than an Eric Ambler novel. The rest of the n
Dec 24, 2016 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
Philip Roth the writer turns himself (maybe) into Philip Roth the character, who travels to Israel to confront another fictional version of Philip Roth who is trying to get Jews to abandon Israel and move back to Europe. It's...weird.

This is Roth at his most recursively self-absorbed. Which Roth is real and which one is fake gets shunted through a hall-of-mirrors framework where every character's identity becomes hopelessly doubled and intertwined with some paranoid other version of themselves.

Oct 19, 2007 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, 2014
Baby's Second Roth, originally read near the end of my sophomore year of high school, in April 2004, on the San Angelo Central High School Orchestra/Band spring trip to Corpus Christi, Texas.

This is some real High Roth, surely one of the loudest and most voluminous examples of termite art, and almost certainly the Most Jewish Book I Have Ever Read, finding room for dissections of: the state of Israel, the PLO, Zionism, anti-Zionism, Holocaust survivors, Holocaust deniers, Holocaust perpetrators
Toby Spitz
Nov 23, 2008 Toby Spitz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything about this book proves why I love Philip Roth's writing, i.e. humor, use of the English language, provocation to thinking, relevance to the modern world.
Sep 02, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
Come sempre nei libri di Philip Roth, le tematiche affrontate sono molteplici, si sovrappongono e si intrecciano. In questo romanzo ancor più del solito v’è confusione, anche se il tema centrale è sempre lo stesso: cosa significa essere ebreo, ebreo americano nato da una generazione che non ha vissuto l’Olocausto, come Roth, o ebreo nato nello Stato di Israele.
Ci si chiede: gli ebrei sono un popolo che vive in un territorio con un proprio ordinamento giuridico, esistono dunque tutti gli element
Jul 29, 2012 cheeseblab rated it liked it
The novelist Philip Roth goes to Israel during the Demjanjuk trial to interview the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld for the New York Times Book Review--an interview whose result you can find in the Times archives. So, nonfiction? Not so fast. For there's another Philip Roth pretending to be the novelist, and pushing "Diasporism," a movement to encourage Ashkenazi Jews to leave Israel for the European countries whence they or their ancestors came. Mix in the rise of the first Intifada and the r ...more
Sep 18, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-challenge
This book gets three stars because it's a Philip Roth book, but I wasn't too big a fan. When authors get too self-indulgent, it aggravates me if you want to know the truth. In this novel, Roth is the main character. This alone is enough to drive a loyal reader batty. Hasn't this been done enough? It's fiction, right? So write about someone else instead of your own crummy self. In this "confession" as the subtitle of the book calls it, Roth, the protagonist, has just gone through a prescription-d ...more
May 01, 2010 Melinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hard core Roth fans
After reading American Pastoral (a work of art) I was excited to get my teeth into another Roth book. But where to start? I picked up a copy of Operation Shylock after carefully researching different discussions of Roth's greatest works. Maybe I just prefer Nathan Zuckerman's voice, but I found OS to be overwritten, completely unbelievable (and my satisfaction of finding out that the book is indeed a work of fiction on the last page was worth getting to it, but I never believed for a second that ...more
3.5 stars.

So... I read this pretty fast, since it was a required read for my crazy-shit class, and I didn't realize I had to finish it until one day before (and I was then only 70-ish pages in...).

And it was a pretty cool read, I have to say. The best thing about it was how it maintained my interest throughout. I found myself continuing to read not only because I had to, but because I genuinely wanted to know what the fuck was going on (not that I actually got any concrete answers. Heh-heh.) I t
Jul 01, 2008 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaica
Despite the fact that it sometimes dragged just a bit, this definitely still gets five starts. What a virtuosic book. All that po-mo stuff, who is the author, the author inside his book, his double, etc., is handled so lightly and unself-consciously, quite the opposite of how it is done in, say, Paul Auster.

And the rants! The best part. I was delighted to find out about Diasporism since it's pretty much the view I hold myself. And Anti-Semites Anonymous! And the Chofetz Chayim! I could go on and
Maggie Roessler
Obsessive and witty. The exploration of Jewish and Palistinian identity is thought-provoking, but I didn't buy the exploration of identity per se. The problem is the characters; they function better as conduits for thought than as humans. They don't breathe, so it isn't all that exciting to imagine all they ways in which they might be illusions. Philip Roth the writer points out how flat Philip Roth the diasporist detective is, but he ought to, at some point, direct that same critique towards hi ...more
Jun 11, 2007 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in 1997 and when I look at it again now and then I can remember every sentence. How is that possible? It's like the complete opposite of my experience of Woolf. Not making a value judgment -- I love both -- but how do you imprint sentences for so many pages so deeply into someone's memory. I really enjoyed this book, too - the first late-stage Roth I ever read, so it's hard to compare it to the others that I read later on and totally loved for their generosity, accessibility, intelli ...more
Feb 03, 2008 Oriana rated it it was ok
I read this book about a billion years ago (seriously, like over a decade, which would have made me... too young to have a chance with it). All I remember is that it was long. And super confusing. And then I gave it to my mom, because it deals with lots of Jew-ness, which she loves. I doubt she ever finished it, because did I mention it was really freaking long?
Mariano Hortal
Philip Roth es un coloso de la literatura actual, está en otra liga... "Operación Shylock" esuna inclasificable maravilla a medio camino de todo, del ensayo, de la autobiografía, de la novela de ficción.... cargada de detalles llenos de sentido... hasta qué punto es capar de retorcer la realidad, tanto la suya personal como el conflicto judío... en fin, a por ella si quieren de verdad
Jesse Crockett
Jan 29, 2014 Jesse Crockett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ouch. I'm homeless and it's Jack London degrees out here. "I'd hate to send a drug addict [like me] to jail," said Philip Roth to Philip Roth. "But..."

Add Roth to the Not To Read Whilst Homeless list, along with DeLillo.
Jul 21, 2016 Jean-Pascal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un livre intelligent, drôle, profond et élégant tout à la fois. Mais peut-être trop intelligent pour moi. Au deuxième tiers du livre, je me suis un peu ennuyé et j'ai eu l'impression de passer à côté de subtilités cachées.
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Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained early literary fame with the 1959 collection Goodbye, Columbus (winner of 1960's National Book Award), cemented it with his 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint, and has continued to write critically-acclaimed works, many of which feature his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The Zuckerman novels began with The Ghost Writer in 1979, and inc ...more
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“Better for real things to be uncontrollable, better for one's life to be undecipherable and intellectually impenetrable than to attempt to make casual sense of what is unknown with a fantasy that is mad. Better, I thought, that the events of these past three days should remain incomprehensible to me forever than to posit, as I had just been doing, a conspiracy of foreign intelligence agents who are determined to control my mind. We've all heard that one before.” 7 likes
“Everything dictated silence and self-control but I couldn't restrain myself and spoke my mind.” 7 likes
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