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Operation Shylock: A Confession

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  4,246 ratings  ·  325 reviews
What if a look-alike stranger stole your name, usurped your biography, and went about the world pretending to be you? In Operation Shylock, master novelist Philip Roth confronts his double, an impostor whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews back to Europe from Israel. The "fake" Philip Roth becomes a monstrous nemesis to the "real" Philip Roth, who must take a frigh ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 16th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Nechamah Goldfarb Yes, I felt the same way, and put it down. Then one weekend when I had nothing new to read and had no desire to go back to read books (which I do some…moreYes, I felt the same way, and put it down. Then one weekend when I had nothing new to read and had no desire to go back to read books (which I do sometimes!) I picked it up and finished it.

I found it to be well-written but distressing, and I find that I cannot take added stress and distress anymore. Nevertheless, i did finsih it, and on the whole it is was worth reading. (less)

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Jun 29, 2011 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
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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 that r ...more
Superb. Reminds me of Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift in the way it illuminates a specific cultural milieu. In this case, Jerusalem in 1988. I seek to place this worthy book in like company only. As to its prose style, tone, diction etc. it's inimitable. Activities taking place in Israel that year include the First Palestinian Intifada, the Israeli suppression of same, and the trial of alleged S.S. guard John Demjanjuk, known at death camp Treblinka as 'Ivan the Terrible, who was ultimately acquit ...more
Jan Rice
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: them-and-us, fiction
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
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is not uncommon for a writer to refer to the other person inside that does the job, a double who sits still at the desk, and is capable of producing what later will be called a work of fiction. It is not rare to read confessions about that certain other that is capable of doing unimaginable wonders with words, devising a plot so intricate that non other than this clone could conceive. Novelists that respond to the common question of how inspiration happens with bizarre answers such as “I don ...more
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Rothologist's Collector's Item

Just when I thought I had read the most bizarre of books from Philip Roth, I stumble upon another. This is one of those, written at the time when Roth was recovering from a nervous breakdown after taking the drug Halcion for pain management that reduced him to paranoia, a deadly state for a novelist who already skirts that area of the mind.

Fact merges with fiction in this book. The facts are that Roth uses his own name for the protagonist and relates his visit to
Sentimental Surrealist
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: collection
The way I see it, this is the book Philip Roth was put on this Earth to write. Oh, people will talk about how insightful Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories or The Plot Against America* or the 9,647 Zuckerman books are, but I think this book has more to say than any of those, or at least the admittedly piecemeal selection (see: Columbus and the American trilogy) I’ve read of them. It’s also funnier, much funnier, than the rather one-joke Portnoy’s Complaint. And hey, why wouldn’t it be? Rot ...more
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Read By RodKelly
Damn! Philip Roth is one of the best writers ever. This novel is the culmination of a string of novels that play around with fact/fiction’s bounderies, progressively amping the meta aspects to arrive at a novel in which Philip Roth is being impersonated by another Philip Roth in Israel, a novel all about duality and double meanings. Experimental, erudite, humorous, and unapologetically rambling, this is another excellent work from a legendary author.
David M
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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,
Toby Spitz
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 24, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jim Leffert
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Philip Roth provides a rollercoaster of perspectives on Jewish life and history, on the Israel-Palestine issues, and on humanity in this tale of distance and involvement, identity theft and conspiracy, real people and totally whacky characters. It may go on for too long, and all the voices and viewpoints might be overwhelming, but this carnivalesque novel is worth reading to the end.

Philip Roth se karnaval van ’n roman bevat identiteitsbedrog en vreemde karakters, veelvuldige perspektiewe op al
Genia Lukin
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
Philip Roth, I realized, doesn't write novels.

He just writes a novel, over and over and over again. He then saddles it with a pithy name, publishes it as part of a trilogy, and collects the scholastic accolades from the hands of people who either don't read his novels beyond the synopsis, or who read so many of the exact same type of novel that they fail to realize he's once again republished the same book.

Roth's novel is a essentially an autobiography - even when his name in it happens to be Na
Oct 19, 2007 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
Bill Baker
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
My man could seriously cover the breadth of the Jewish relationship with Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the diaspora from nearly every angle in a single book, and yet his women are still one dimensional. Wild.
Richard Moss
Jul 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Operation Shylock sees Roth at his most playful and meta.

Written as if it's a non-fiction work, Roth is plunged into a black farce when he hears reports of another Philip Roth, who appears to be posing as the author in Jerusalem.

As Roth is heading to Israel himself, it is not long before he gets a chance to encounter and confront his double.

The Roth impostor is attracting headlines for his advocacy of "Diasporism" - the idea that Israel's Ashkenazy Jews should return to their ancestral European
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Operation Shylock" can be read in a lot of different ways. It can be read as the author insists, (tongue in cheek) as a factual account of Philip Roth's involvement with the Mossad during an espionage mission he carried out in Athens. It can be read as a 1960s Peter Sellers romp, with crazy characters jumping from bedroom to bedroom and event to event doing increasingly bizarre things. It can be read as a meditation on reality, asking questions like: Even if we remember something and have recor ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.

Jul 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Philip Roth's 1993 novel, Operation Shylock, is an audacious, wickedly funny examination of the misunderstandings, distortions and tragedies that have plagued the Jewish people ...and his own relationship with other Jews, centered largely on the question of whether fidelity to the principles of Zionism and the State of Israel is central to one's good standing as a Jew. Roth attacks these issues by proposing a second Philip Roth who has assumed his identity and is busying himself promoting a seco ...more
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it liked it
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
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Philip Milton Roth was 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 in ...more

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