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The drama of Jewish survival takes a new twist in this novel, but Rothean ideas persist: all humans make fiction, man betrays and fulfills his father's dream; an artist's doubt is his integrity; Jews test freedom (in the West from exclusion and prejudice, in Israel from temptations of power); embattled Israel dramatizes the nationalisms that drive history, with the Holocaust their persistent threat. Here, through a pseudo-autobiographical escapade in intifada Israel during the ``Ivan the Terrible'' trial, a writer confronts his double. Playing off recent autobiography, Roth gives his fictive protagonist, ``Philip Roth,'' the author's known career. Led into Mossad intrigue to defend Jewish security and his writer's integrity, this ``Roth'' chews the cud of these tortuous themes and is at times as baffled as Kafka's K. Using ``Philip Roth'' as an irritant to thought, Roth will make some readers steam. By midway he is telegraphing his punches, and his sparkling absurdity dissolves in perseveration. Recommended for public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92; Roth reported in the New York Times , March 9, 1993, that all events depicted in this book are in fact true but that the Mossad insisted that he bill it as fiction.--Ed.-- Alan Cooper, York Coll . , CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In yet another audacious spin on the doppelganger theme, Roth's dazzling, maddening and brilliant new novel offers two characters that bear his name: one a famous author called Philip Roth, the other an impostor who brazenly impersonates the ``real'' Philip Roth. Convinced that Israel will be destroyed by the Arab nations, the pretender has assumed Roth's identity in order to publicize his scheme to establish a new diaspora that will lead Jews out of Israel and back to their pre-Holocaust cultural roots in Europe. Roth's familiar tactic of fictionalizing the truth, such as it is, has the reader continually on edge, wondering what here is based on fact and what is ``the sacrosanct prank of artistic transubstantiation.'' The novel is set in Jerusalem during the trial of John Demjanjuk (who claimed he was not Ivan the Terrible, but merely a man who resembled the sadistic concentration-camp guard). Roth also refers to the trial of Shakespeare's Shylock, whose name the narrator gives to what he concludes is an Israeli intelligence operation that has manipulated the series of bizarre experiences in which he finds himself. Other actual figures represented in the story include Aharon Appelfeld (whose interview with the author is reprinted from the original in the New York Times Book Review ), Jonathan Pollard (accused of spying for Israel) and Leon Klinghoffer (the victim of the Achille Lauro highjacking). Among the fictional characters, there's a nurse called Wanda Jane ``Jinx'' Possesski, whose two-sided personality matches her name; and handicapped Mr. Smilesburger, who is definitely not what he seems. The plot is like a house of mirrors; the narrator and his fraudulent twin impersonate each other with dizzying speed, which allows Roth to present the reverse side of every argument his characters make. He deliberately courts shock value: the events he depicts are both comical and horrible, often simultaneously; his characters' views are extremist and even bizarre. But Roth is dead serious. He leads readers through the absurdist plot with an impassioned argument about the eternal issue of the Jew in a largely Christian culture. Ingenious and provocative, this novel marks yet another achievement for a writer whose stock in trade is taking risks. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
This fine new novel represents yet another significant addition to the substantial body of Roth's work, from Goodbye Columbus (1959) through Deception (1990) and Patrimony: A True Story (1991). As in all his books since My Life as a Man (1974), Roth engages and tests his readers by his sophisticated and intentionally ambiguous amalgam of autobiography and fiction. For example, the initial discussion of the novelist's recent Halcion-induced depression in this novel supplements his candid personal revelations in The Facts (CH, Jan'89). In Operation Shylock, Roth develops the fascinating premise that an impostor called Philip Roth surfaces prominently in Israel, preaching a doctrine of "Diasporism," which prescribes that Zionists abandon Israel and return to Poland and the other European nations of their origin. The real Roth's consternation and intervention, and the consequent cerebral and action-filled developments are both intellectually stimulating and riveting. In addition, Roth's penetrating observations on the politics of the Mideast and on the Holocaust are thought provoking. Highly recommended for all readers. B. H. Leeds; Central Connecticut State University