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Shylock Is My Name

(Hogarth Shakespeare)

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,868 ratings  ·  408 reviews
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 fat
Hardcover, 275 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Hogarth (first published February 2016)
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Average rating 3.18  · 
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Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dear Woody Allen,

Please make this brilliant revision of Merchant of Venice into a film. You can play Strulovich but cast Charles Dance as Shylock.

Love your work,


This was brilliant.

The Hogarth Shakespeare series commissioned modern writers with the task of creating a contemporary retelling of some of Shakespeare’s most captivating plays. Here we have English writer Howard Jacobson exploring a new twist to The Merchant of Venice. The Hogarth folks chose very well as Jacobson seems uniquely qua
Olivia-Savannah  Roach
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shylock is My Name is a book I have been pining to read since I heard about it. And it did live up to my expectations even though it was absolutely nothing like I was expecting it to be. The writing style at the beginning completely threw me. It was more literature than I had expected - even though this is a retelling of Shakespeare, I somehow wasn't expecting it to be like that. But the further I read, the more I fell in love with the beautiful writing style and the story. The wording was done ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5000-books
Firstly I am VERY glad I listened to Shylock Is My Name on audio. The narrator was very English, very nicely spoken and gave emphasis to all the right words. He helped me stay on track whereas left to myself I probably would have read too fast and lost the meaning.

The meaning was deep, the prose very literary and at times it was very heavy. However there were also times that made me smile and there were some very beautiful passages. Of course no one does it quite like Shakespeare himself and Shy
(DNF @ 43%) I’d read Jacobson’s three most recent novels and liked them all well enough. He’s certainly your go-to author if you want a witty discussion of the modern Jewish “persecution complex.” I think the problem with this one was that I wasn’t sure what it wanted to be: a contemporary Jewish novel, or a Hebrew fable, or some mixture thereof. Shylock is pretty much dropped in as is from The Merchant of Venice, so it’s unclear whether he’s Strulovitch’s hallucination (though others also seem ...more
Jan Rice
This is a book I've wanted to read for a long time, although I didn't realize it was part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project to commission modern novelists to retell Shakespeare.

Howard Jacobson has plucked forth Shylock, breathed new life into him, and given him another turn upon the stage, including a chance to finish unfinished business in "Act Five." In this book he appears in chilly England to help and support Simon Strulovitch, who finds himself stuck in a dilemma similar to Shylock's in A
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book – equally thought provoking, challenging and entertaining. It certainly helps if you have at least some familiarity and understanding of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and I suspect those of us who don’t, might be find this book somewhat perplexing to say the least. Whilst I am no expert, having seen MOV several times certainly helped me to understand and get the most out of this book.

Whilst I do agree with some reviewers that the Strulovich / Shylock passages are stronger tha
Meg (fairy.bookmother)
Dec 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
//Edit: 28 February – I'm dropping this rating down to one star because I'm still angry at it.

Shylock Is My Name is Howard Jacobson's addition to the Hogarth Shakespeare series, and I felt it to be such a let down after reading Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time. I read Jacobson's J last year and was disappointed in it in similar ways as I am disappointed in this one. While he can write, Jacobson is very disjointed in his writing, as if he is showing off to us plebs how smart, how intelligent,
Roman Clodia
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an intelligent, informed and brilliantly-written engagement with Merchant: it approaches the play thematically rather than strictly following the plot-line (although there's lots of that, too) and manages to be both inside and outside the play at the same time.

In a bold move, Jacobson has his own modern Jewish protagonist with a troublesome daughter meet Shylock (yes, that Shylock) in a local cemetery where he's speaking to his long-dead wife Leah, and takes him home. The two men bond
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This book really made me laugh. I don't often laugh out loud at books, especially not on a plane surrounded by strangers. But I did while reading this.

I have read reviews that complain of Jacobson "showing off" in this book, that seem to think it is just about the author showing how well he thinks he can write and how clever he is. I didn't get any of that as I read it. But I did laugh a lot.

It might help that I am British and there's an element of the traditional English farce. It might help th
Alex Cantone
Strulovitch found his guest in the garden when he woke. It was still early. And Cold. He was wearing his overcoat, with a black scarf over his shoulders - to Strulovitch’s eye not unlike a prayer shawl –and was sitting on his Glyndebourne stool talking to Leah. A few remaining droplet of dew sequinned the lawn, lighting him up from below like footlights.

Part of the Hogarth-Shakespeare series, I read this re-imagining of the Merchant of Venice in a contemporary setting, over 10 sittings, neither
Lyn Elliott
I’ve come to Shylock Is My Name via a winding path – watching the Merchant of Venice film with Robert de Niro as Shylock, reading James Shapiro’s Shakespeare and the Jews; then listening to Shapiro and Jacobson discussing Shakespeare, Shylock and Jews at which point I knew I had to read Shylock is My Name.

I’ve never been a great fan of Jacobson, but this book is one I’ll remember for his recreation of Shylock; the laugh aloud humour, sometimes sardonic, sometimes slapstick; anger and the revela
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

Confession of ignorance first: I am completely unfamiliar with this author. Even his name is unknown to me, which is unusual for one who works in a library and frequently plays in them too. But the Hogarth Shakespeare has chosen well for their Merchant of Venice rewrite. Jacobson is a talented writer.

To my mind, the two plays of Shakespeare which are the most challenging for modern audiences are The Taming of the Shrew due to the role of women in it and The Merchant of Ve
I received an advance reading copy through Netgalley.

This is the first Howard Jacobson book I've read. I can't say it made me at all excited to read any of his other books. Shylock is My Name is a retelling of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. I'm definitely still interested in reading some of the other works in this series, but reading this book was a complete chore.

The story was so hard to follow that I almost don't even know how to describe it. It has somethi
Sep 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Friends, this has been a long road of reading this book. Let's discuss it together, shall we?
Firstly, this book is WAY beyond my vocabulary level as a human. Like every single sentence it felt like had a word I didn't know which was annoying to say the very least. I tried looking them up as I went but that failed after a couple of pages.
Secondly, the Shylock character I felt was a bit unnecessary. Like in the end *spoiler alert* his mirror doesn't even end up following his advice and goes throu
lark benobi
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
In this novel Shylock appears (materializes?) in a cemetery and follows the protagonist home and the two of them have great conversations about Judaism, Anti-Semitism, and wayward daughters. What I liked most about the novel is that Shylock gets to speak a good deal more about many interesting things than he ever gets to do in The Merchant of Venice, where he has admittedly memorable lines, but not many of them. I also liked the way this entire novel sounds like Harold Jacobson having an attack ...more
Roger Brunyate
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Schizophrenic Novel

It must have seemed a no-brainer. When the publishers of the Hogarth Shakespeare series were thinking of commissioning a writer to retell The Merchant of Venice, who but Howard Jacobson could so closely parse the layers of cultural criticism surrounding Shakespeare's choice of the Jew Shylock as his villain? The only other possible candidate would be Philip Roth. But on this count, Jacobson comes through in trumps. His decision to bring Shylock back in person as an adviser a
Carol Douglas
Apr 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Howard Jacobson's modern-day retelling of The Merchant of Venice is excellent. A Jewish Englishman, Simon Strulovitch, is having difficulties with his daughter, Beatrice. Indeed, his whole life is difficult, except that he has made money and lives in a large house.
Jacobson goes to the cemetery to visit his mother's grave, and there he sees a man who is conversing with his dead wife. The man is Shylock, talking with his wife, Leah. He has survived the centuries, and talking to Leah is his only
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
A question, then, for Shylock:

How merry was your bond? When you set the forfeit at an equal pound of Antonio's fair flesh, to be cut off and taken from whatever part of his body it pleased you, what intended you by it? What intended you by it in the spirit of jest – that's to say how far in earnest were you, and how far playing the devil they expected you to be? And what intended you in the matter of anatomy? Did you mean salaciously, flirtatiously even, to designate Antonio's penis as it ple
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recurring thoughts while reading this book:
1. Were I familiar with The Merchant of Venice, would this make more sense?
2. I think these people would benefit from psychotherapy. And maybe some hands-on volunteer work with people that have actual problems.
3. Are Jewish fathers really like this? Because, ewww.
4. These characters are the most self-absorbed, narrow-minded, unlikeable people I have read. To a (wo)man. They are seriously not cool.
5. I think I may be woefully ignorant about Jewishness.

Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I have to admit that after 86 pages of Shylock is My Name I skipped to the end to see how Howard Jacobson dealt with the pound of flesh problem in a modern setting. (It was pretty clever.)

Did I return to page 86 and read what was in between? No, I did not. For all my reading 20th c Jewish writers and Holocaust literature, this book taught me I don't understand what being Jewish is like at all.

A man once told me about the hostility he faced just walking home from school. He was Jewish in a Michi
Jan 07, 2016 rated it did not like it
I promise I am here for the Hogarth Shakespeare retellings. This is where I live, people. I love this stuff. I just simply could not force myself to finish this installment.

Shylock Is My Name ended up being Jacobson trying to prove just how smart he is, and ended up producing an incomprehensible, unfollow-able, piece of work that makes no sense, and has little to do with retelling Merchant. It's not that he's not allowed to take liberties with the original work-that's the whole point-but Jacobso
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
It is refreshing to encounter a contemporary novel that is primarily ideas, not actions. Shakespeare's Shylock is the protagonist in a battle of wills; a contemplation of identity; and ruminations on the parent-child relationship.

I've read a lot of Shakespeare and seen many of the plays, but don't think I have ever experienced The Merchant of Venice. Certainly, it would have been an asset to approach this book with a fresh reading of the play, but my lack of familiarity with the details didn't d
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well written but soulless book adaption of the Merchant of Venice. The characters are boring and the story just feels unplanned. This is the first dud for 2016, a real disappoint is an understatement. I don't like giving negative reviews but I felt empty reading this book so it's worth noting to others. It really has great wording but that felt like compensation for the dull story.
May 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
Some good humor, the writing is good, but the characters are meh. Cover is pretty though.
Paul Fulcher
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
"They don't know whether to cry for me, disown me or explain me."

Howard Jacobson has observed that:
Shylock is as sardonic as any character in Shakespeare, most of the time in the face of insult, which he is able to bat back with expert mimicry and finely tempered impudence. In the face of utter ruin, though, he is given nothing to say. The play, it would seem, cannot further contain him. He needs a novel."
(Goldsmiths Prize lecture

Shylock is My Name is
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
This is the second book from the Hogarth Shakespeare project I've read, this one is based on The Merchant of Venice. I have to admit that my memory of this story is very foggy to me, I can remember Shylock and brill plot twist and a fair amount of anti-Semitism.

Shylock is my name does a good job of taking the plot of merchant of Venice and bringing it to a modern day setting. I found it an interesting read, witnessing Shylock and Strulovitch's grief and how they try to deal with their wild daug
Robin Kempf
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. This book is a very effective retelling of the Shakespeare. The modern version of the troubling anti-Semitic (or is it?) play, the Merchant of Venice, grapples with conflicts between Jews and Gentiles as well as between fathers and daughters. Shylock himself shows up as a foil to the Jewish father of this tale, using his experiences to delve into contemporary problems. It’s really quite brilliant. Yet, you have to know this is a challenging read. Vaulted language and Shakespearean ref ...more
Carmela Smith
Apr 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sid Nuncius
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was excellent. I approached it with a little trepidation because I'm not that keen on the idea of re-working Shakespeare and I haven't always got on with Howard Jacobson's work in the past, but I found Shylock Is My Name thoughtful, funny, profound and very readable.

This is only partially a modern re-working of The Merchant Of Venice. Certainly many of the familiar characters and scenes from the play are represented here with real wit and a shrewd sideways take on modern life. The
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Merchant of Venice has vexed me since I read it in college. I was fascinated by Shylock, but felt that the rest of the characters except for Portia were a waste of ink. I remember rolling my eyes a lot at Portia having to step into save her drip of a lover. With the anti-Semitism on top of everything, The Merchant of Venice is one of my least favorite works by Shakespeare. So when I learned that Howard Jacobson was going to take a stab at retelling the story in Shylock is My Name, I leapt at ...more
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Shakespeare Fans: Howard Jacobson's "Shylock Is My Name" 1 23 Apr 01, 2016 04:29PM  

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Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, England, and educated at Cambridge. His many novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Who’s Sorry Now? and Kalooki Nights (both longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), and, most recently, The Act of Love. Jacobson is also a respected critic and broadcaster, and writes a weekly column for the Independent. He lives in ...more

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