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.”
“[An] ebullient riff on Shakespeare…[a] blend of purposeful deja vu and Jewish fatalism…Jacobson’s highflying wit is more Stoppardian than Shakespearean, even amid rom-com subplots and phallocentric jests equally well suited to Elizabethan drama as to the world of Judd Apatow.” —The New York Times Book Review
“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
“Sharply written, profoundly provocative.” —The Huffington Post
“The Shylock of the novel is…a character in search of an author, or at least an author who will write him fully, fill in the blanks and give him a voice where once he was voiceless. And in Jacobson, after just over 400 years, he has found a mensch who has done—with considerable skill—exactly that.” —The Daily Beast
About the Author
HOWARD JACOBSON has written fourteen novels and five works of non-fiction. In 2010 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question and was also shortlisted for the prize in 2014 for his most recent novel, J. Howard Jacobson’s first book, Shakespeare’s Magnanimity, written with the scholar Wilbur Sanders, was a study of four Shakespearean heroes. Now he has returned to the Bard with a contemporary interpretation of The Merchant of Venice.