Operation Shylock
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Operation Shylock

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  2,223 ratings  ·  147 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...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 15th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Paul
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
Darwin8u
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)

The only one of those books that might be considered minor is The Dying Animal, but even that stands up well. So, like I tend to do with great writers, I back into their early greats. I read backwards, crosswi...more
Jan Rice
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...more
Conrad
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.
Aaron
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
Mike Witcombe
Perhaps Roth's best book, and definitely the best novel about 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, 'The C...more
Toby Spitz
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.
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...more
SlowRain
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...more
Melinda
Dec 07, 2013 Melinda rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Ryan
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
cheeseblab
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
Martha
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
Noah
A difficult book to review, for sure. I went back and forth between two and three stars. First, the good stuff. There are some wonderful set pieces here. Roth has written some of his greatest monologues, especially the ones about Jewish identity, about the American Jewish relationship to Israel, about suffering and the Holocaust, about suffering and the Palestinian people, about truth and deception, about unknowingness, about evil. These monologues, which frequently span three, four, five pages...more
Ron
Roth immerses himself in Jewishness here, in the problems of Zionism and the Diaspora, in his personal relation to Jewishness, and Jews relation to him and his work. It is a high comedy of intrigue, duplicity and mistaken identity. He meets his doppleganger, who befuddles him at every turn. He is lectured at by Jews and Palestinians, taught the history of the Chometz Chaim (the Master of Silence), bribed and harangued and kidnapped (but not really). He trots out as supplementary characters the l...more
Maryann
This book put me to sleep faster than Nyquil. I seriously struggled to stay awake while reading it and my reading pace ground to a near halt. Now, that said, the book wasn't uninteresting. It just wasn't for me. Philip Roth is the primary character in this novel and follows his twin, the man pretending to be him, to Jerusalem where the trial of a man accused of being Ivan the Terrible of the Holocaust is in progress. This other Roth is promoting Diasporism- the return of the Jews to eastern Euro...more
Marcy
I'm not sure what to make of this novel, especially its characters and its point of view. And I think Roth wants it that way. The novel blurs reality and fiction with the author meeting his doppelgänger is occupied Palestine. The novel is clever, and kind of toots its own horn at its cleverness, which is a bit annoying. But what is really perplexing is what he's trying to say about Palestinians. He has characters who say exactly what the problem is:

"Then 1967: the Israeli victory in the Six Day...more
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
oriana
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?
Lars
Operation Shylock is a valuable reflection the cultures of Jews in diaspora and in Israel in the late-20th century, including the place of historical traditions, ramifications of the holocaust, intra-cultural discourse conventions, Israeli national security, and most importantly the ubiquitous, immersive, inescapable experience of being part of a specifically-defined ethnic community. There are great sequences throughout, but it's very uneven- monologues and texts of excessive length abound, uni...more
Ben
Metafiction at its finest! Just kidding, I was really waiting a long time for this book to get less bloated and wordy. And it never happened. I do appreciate Roth's metafiction, it is a sometimes interesting art form. I did find interesting some of the political viewpoints discussed by his characters. I have no idea how much of the opinions are based on actual beliefs held by real people, but they were thought provoking even if they were some grand joke played on the reader. One weird thing I've...more
Michael Battaglia
There's a Magnetic Fields song called "I Wish I Had An Evil Twin", in which the singer fantasizes about how great it would be if his evil twin did exist, since then he could do all kinds of bad things and the twin would (probably gladly) take the blame. Which raises the question, "what makes the bad twin" and although this book was written way before that song came out, you wonder if it's the kind of thing he had in mind. Or maybe he never even read it. No one ever asks the hard questions.

Subtit...more
Jesse Crockett
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.
Jgknobler
This novel is set in Israel during the time of the trial of John Demjanjuk, a Cleveland auto worker accused of working in a Nazi death camp. In it Philip Roth travels to Israel and discovers a double, another Philip Roth expounding on the idea of "diasporism," the belief that Jews of Eastern European heritage should leave Israel and resettle in Europe. Then somehow Roth becomes an Israeli spy, or at least I think that's what supposed to have happened. It seems foolish to complain that the novel...more
Lawren Hyder
"I understood that people are trying to transform themselves all the time: the universal urge to be otherwise. So as not to look as they look, sound as they sound, be treated as they are treated, suffer in the ways they suffer, etc., etc., they change hairdos, tailors, spouses, accents, friends, they change their addresses, their noses, their wallpaper, even their forms of government, all to be more like themselves or less like themselves, or more like or less like that exemplary prototype whose
...more
Agnes Mack
Philip Roth is the only author I can forgive for 6 page long paragraphs. As my friend Rachel recently said, "He makes language his bitch," and that is certainly true in Operation Shylock: A Confession .

On the surface, this book is about a fake Philip Roth, running around Jerusalem, speaking to the press, giving lectures, and otherwise living off the fame of the real Philip Roth. The book though, like all of Roth's, is of course about much more than that.

The real story is that of the conflict bet...more
Laura
Operation Shylock was a great book. Sort of. I mean, it made me think, and laugh, and think some more. It was really well written and the themes explored are truly genius. But, I got this feeling now that he is "PHILIP ROTH: GREAT LIVING WRITER" he doesn't have to edit anymore. The book is 398 pages and there are times I thought this guy is just rolling, he's just letting it all come out and he isn't looking back. Sometimes that's really great. And, sometimes it's just tedious. People in this bo...more
Lisa
Having finished this book in audio form I am very happy to never have to read another Philip Roth novel again. Although the superficial theme of this book might be: a Critique of American Jews, or Israel, or the concept of dual identity, the underlying motif was simply claustrophobia. We readers are stuck inside the head of a mentally ill, excessively loquacious, paranoid writer. He gets to expound on his mental illness from every possible perspective. By inventing an alter ego and having conver...more
Steve Smits
What, really, is one's identity? Is it singular and constant, owned and known by ourselves alone? Or, is it varying, multiple and contradictory, shifting according memory, circumstances, time, events, other's influences on our lives? Roth, in this fascinating, complex "novel" (is it?), poses many questions about the malleability and uncertainty of identity, whether one's own, of those we encounter or of a people.

He begins the story with his experience with "madness", a period of extreme mental d...more
Brent
I don't know, maybe I'm not smart enough to review Operation Shylock. I've read a few books by Roth over the past 40 years. Like every boy of my age I read "Portnoy's Complaint" bug-eyed. Through "The Plot Against America," which although I enjoyed I thought had a too-pat ending. But this book is just so exasperating.

The basic plot is intriguing. Upon going to Israel to interview an Israeli writer, Roth himself learns of someone else passing himself off as Roth. Instead of calling his lawyer or...more
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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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American Pastoral (The American Trilogy #1) Portnoy's Complaint The Plot Against America The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3) Everyman

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“Everything dictated silence and self-control but I couldn't restrain myself and spoke my mind.” 5 likes
“Where everything is words, you'd think I'd have some mastery and know my way around, but all this churning hatred, each man a verbal firing squad, immeasurable suspicions, a flood of mocking, angry talk, all of life a vicious debate, conversations in which there is nothing that cannot be said...no, I'd be better off in the jungle, I thought, where a roar's a roar and no one is hard put to miss its meaning.” 2 likes
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