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A Modern Re-imagining of One of Shakespeare’s Most Memorable Characters

“Jacobson… has delivered with authority and style… [a] deft artist firmly in control, offering witty twists to a play long experienced by many as a racial tragedy.”
—The Washington Post

“A serious comic masterpiece”
—The Spectator (UK)

“Supremely stylish, probing and unsettling…This Shylock is a sympathetic character in his private life, forever mourning his beloved wife. His monologues over her grave are truly touching. In his dialogues with Strulovitch he is both savagely funny and intellectually searching, both wise and sophistical, intimate and coldly controlling… 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.”
—The Independent (UK)

“Part remake, part satire and part symposium, Jacobson’s Merchant is less Shakespeare retold than Shakespeare reverse-engineered… in these juicy, intemperate, wisecracking squabbles, Jacobson really communicates with Shakespeare’s play, teasing out the lacunae, quietly adjusting its emphases … and making startlingly creative use of the centuries-old playscript.”
—Daily Telegraph (UK)

“Jacobson, with glorious chutzpah, gives Shylock his Act V, and the end when it comes is extremely satisfying… Provocative, caustic and bold”
—Financial Times (UK)

“Jacobson takes the play’s themes – justice, revenge, mercy, Jews and Christians, Jew-hatred, fathers and daughters – and works away at them with dark humour and rare intelligence… This is Jacobson at his best. There is no funnier writer in English today. Not just laugh-out-loud humour, though there is plenty of that, including wonderful jokes about circumcision and masturbation. But a sharp, biting humour, which stabs home in a single line… This is one of his best novels yet.”
—Jewish Chronicle (UK)

“Jacobson treats Shylock less as a product of Shakespeare’s culture and imagination than as a real historical figure emblematic of Jewish experience—an approach that gives the novel peculiar vigour”
—Prospect Magazine (UK)

“When Shylock and Strulovitch are swapping jokes, stories, and fears, the tale is energetic…a work that stands on its own.”
–Publishers Weekly

“The Merchant is well-suited to Jacobson, a Philip Roth–like British writer known for his sterling prose and Jewish themes….full of the facile asides and riffs for which Jacobson has been praised”
—Kirkus

 

 

Shylock is my name jacket

 

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 father Simon Strulovitch. With characteristic irony, Jacobson presents Shylock as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge. While Strulovich struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice’s “betrayal” of her family and heritage – as she is carried away by the excitement of Manchester high society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute on the field – Shylock alternates grief for his beloved wife with rage against his own daughter’s rejection of her Jewish upbringing. Culminating in a shocking twist on Shylock’s demand for the infamous pound of flesh, Jacobson’s insightful retelling examines contemporary, acutely relevant questions of Jewish identity while maintaining a poignant sympathy for its characters and a genuine spiritual kinship with its antecedent—a drama which Jacobson himself considers to be “the most troubling of Shakespeare’s plays for anyone, but, for an English novelist who happens to be Jewish, also the most challenging.”

 

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About the Author

Howard Jacobson is the author of four works of nonfiction and several novels, including The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize; The Mighty Walzer, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing; and J, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has a weekly column for the Independent and regularly writes for the Guardian, the Times, and the Observer. Jacobson has also been a writer and presenter for a number of British television specials. He lives in London.

 

 

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