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  • Published: 4 February 2016
  • ISBN: 9781473545595
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: Audio Download
  • Length: 7 hr 29 min
  • Narrator: Michael Kitchen
  • RRP: $19.99

Shylock is My Name

Man Booker Prize-winner and our great chronicler of Jewish life revisits Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

‘Who is this guy, Dad? What is he doing here?’

With an absent wife and a daughter going off the rails, wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch is in need of someone to talk to. So when he meets Shylock at a cemetery in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, he invites him back to his house. It’s the beginning of a remarkable friendship.

Elsewhere in the Golden Triangle, the rich, manipulative Plurabelle (aka Anna Livia Plurabelle Cleopatra A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever Christine) is the face of her own TV series, existing in a bubble of plastic surgery and lavish parties. She shares prejudices and a barbed sense of humour with her loyal friend D’Anton, whose attempts to play Cupid involve Strulovitch’s daughter – and put a pound of flesh on the line.

Howard Jacobson’s version of The Merchant of Venice bends time to its own advantage as it asks what it means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being in the modern world.

  • Published: 4 February 2016
  • ISBN: 9781473545595
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: Audio Download
  • Length: 7 hr 29 min
  • Narrator: Michael Kitchen
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson has written sixteen novels and five works of non-fiction. He won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award in 2000 for The Mighty Walzer and then again in 2013 for Zoo Time. In 2010 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question; he was also shortlisted for the prize in 2014 for J.

Also by Howard Jacobson

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Praise for Shylock is My Name

For him to write about and inside of The Merchant of Venice seems to me a marriage made in heaven

Stephen Greenblatt

Inspired...It does what any good literary subversion should do: deepens and enhances one's appreciation of the original.

James Lasdun, Guardian

Jacobson’s writing is virtuoso. He is the 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 … There's also deep and sincere soul-searching going on here

Lucasta Miller, Independent

A brilliant conceit… A powerful reimagining and reinvention of Shakespeare’s character.

Adam Lively, The Sunday Times

Howard Jacobson’s reworking of The Merchant of Venice is a sly success… Irascible, eloquent Shylock is a man transplanted from the play to today.

Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph

Shylock is My Name has much to tell us about loss, identity and modern antisemitism ... Simon's debates with Shylock, snapshots of a man haranguing his literary Creator, are the heart of this book, knowing and humane

Kate Maltby, The Times

Jacobson is clearly enjoying himself, savouring the play’s puzzles like a connoisseur with a complex wine, luxuriating in its themes of love, vengeance, forgiveness and justice, exploring what it means to be Jewish, then and now… Provocative, caustic and bold.

Rebecca Adams, Financial Times

An unusually engaged form of literary criticism ... Jacobson treats Shylock less as a product of Shakespeare's culture and imagination than as a real historical figure emblematic of Jewish experience

Anthony Cummins, Prospect

Supremely stylish, probing and unsettling… 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.

Irish Independent

A shrewd and powerful examination of what is means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being, this is another witty and thought-provoking tale from Jacobson.

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

Howard Jacobson, the undisputed British master of black comedies featuring Jewish characters… [Shylock is My Name] is a provocative interrogation of Shakespeare’s play… [Written] with empathy and affection. Sharp-edged and bitterly funny verbal fencing matches between the two men, the modern and eternal versions of each other, are the engine of the novel, as they pursue the questions of what it means to call oneself a Jew, or to be called one by others.

Stephanie Merritt, Observer

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.

David Herman, Jewish Chronicle

Shylock is My Name is witty and astute.

Rosie Kinchen, The Sunday Times

A bracing read. It explores the meaning of Shakespeare’s play, uses its enduring relevance to examine the contemporary world and challenges us to interrogate our prejudices… Thought-provoking.

Max Liu, Independent on Sunday

I tend to resist modern versions of the classics. What is added to a great work in the rewriting? Do we need the argot of the 21st century because the original is now intimidatingly remote? However, reading Shylock Is My Name undid me, reminding me of the irrefutable otherness that still manifests itself. It is a moving, disturbing and compelling riposte to the blithe resolution offered in the urtext.

Louise Adler, Sydney Morning Herald

[Jacobson] has delivered with authority and style… offering witty twists to a play long experienced by many as a racial tragedy

The Washington Post

Darkly comic new novel… A gripping tale of love, death, art and a pound of flesh – as well as plastic surgery… Jacobson examines contemporary issues of Jewish identity with his sharp, biting, northern humour. He asks what it means to be a father, a Jew and a merciful human being in today’s modern world. He is the first author brave enough to take up the challenge of re-imagining the Bard’s most controversial tragedy, in a bid to tackle its much-debated tones of anti-Semitism.

Rebecca Wallersteiner, The Jewish News

This complex book challenges all assumptions, never shying away from controversy… For every bitter take on human shortcomings here decried, there is a counterbalancing acknowledgment of the grace inherent in human nature. The novel captures the essence of the original.

Christina Hunt Mahony, Irish Times

Howard Jacobson’s masterful retelling of The Merchant of Venice celebrates the play but speaks for itself about being Jewish… Jacobson [is] a skilful craftsman as well as an artist of rare individuality… He has written a comic novel which poses serious questions. He has been both inventive and faithful to Shakespeare. And as a bonus, he gives us a good many excellent Jewish jokes.

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

Jacobson preserves the sense of ambiguity and uncertainty…that gives Shakespeare’s play much of its unsettling force… [My Name is Shylock] is the product of deep thought, deep feeling, deep scholarship. But this book is never leaden or lenten. It is fresh, exuberant, funny, almost preposterously entertaining and engaging. It is also possessed of an irony, wit and restless addiction to exploring conflicting arguments that leaves you feeling enriched… Jacobson’s prose is…vibrant, inventive, precise, arresting and full of memorable cadences and elegant modulations… A stunning achievement.

Matthew Adams, The National

My Name is Shylock does ample justice to the legacy of Shakespeare’s classic story… Jacobson has proved that his command of the art of storytelling is worthy of renewed praise.

UK Press Syndication

Jacobson’s Mancunian Jewish voice (last seen to splendid effect in The Mighty Walzer) is rare enough. But when this voice is combined with high culture and rude comedy it is, despite its abject subject matter, utterly life-affirming.

Bryan Cheyette, The Times Literary Supplement

Expect …The kind of comic intelligence that has made his name

Sam Parker, Esquire

Set in a world of unimaginable wealth, football player celebrity, cosmetic surgery and reality TV, My Name Is Shylock does ample justice to the legacy of Shakespeare's classic story of honouring a debt with perhaps the ultimate sacrifice.

Roddy Brooks, The Northern Echo

The winner of the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question pulls off a neat trick in this almost perversely serious comic novel, creating a parallel world to Shakespeare's Venice in the wealthy, cultured Golden Triangle of Cheshire, and peopling it with parallel-ish characters...The author shows full power and ingenuity putting Strulovitch and Shylock in the same place and time.

Paul Levy, The Spectator

Explores the meaning of Shakespeare's play, uses its enduring relevance to examine the contemporary world and challenges us to interrogate our prejudices...Energetic, authentic and biting.


That Shylock should thus materialise for a present-day Jewish protagonist, and become...a confidant, an exemplar...an advisor is a brilliant conceit...a powerful reimagining and reinvention.

Adam Lively, The Sunday Times

Alive with humanity and fierce debate, the book offers a nice twist on that notorious pound of flesh.

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

Funny and dark by turns… A gripping tale of love, plastic surgery and that notorious pound of flesh… This warm, witty and brilliantly written book provides a challenging feast for the imagination.

Rebecca Wallersteiner, The Lady

A master of serious-minded comedy, Jacobson is one of the greats of his generation.

Culture Whisper

Brilliantly witty inventive.

Kate Saunders, Saga

A crackling dialectic on fatherhood, faith and what it means to be merciful… The echoes of Shakespeare’s story in Strulovitch’s are obvious…But the quips and the characters are pure Jacobson… It’s a treat.

Emma Hughes, The Tablet

A clear-eyed reflection on modern Jewish identity.

Jerry Brotton, Daily Telegraph

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing, fittingly, is how it reads and rereads the play.

James Lasdun, Guardian Weekly

Hilarious reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.


Offering witty twists to a play long experienced by many as a racial tragedy.

Tova Reich, Washington Post

Affectionate retelling… At the heart of the novel is the profound question of whether obligation…should be tempered by mercy.

Giulia Miller, Jewish Quarterly

Even those familiar with that book will be surprised by the twists now composed by Jacobson, whose most idle words have purpose, as well as point… Clever mockery and racial self-depreciation give the novel its provocative brilliance… Jacobson pours the quality of mercy through a large strainer, but Shylock’s fortitude and unswerving tribal fidelity are offered as a kind of redemption, a way, if you like, of forgiving Shakespeare. And of sending you back to him, not only just to check

Mary leland, Irish Examiner

As characteristically ingenious, witty and dark as his musings on what it means to be Jewish.

Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

It hooks you into a great debate.

William Leith, Evening Standard

I don’t think any other author writes as well about the experience of Jewishness and he manages to be serious but with that laconic humour.

Tony Robinson, Radio Times Christmas Gift Guide

An intelligent, funny and enjoyable novel.

Brad Davies, i, Book of the Year

For my favourite novel I’m choosing Shylock is my Name… It’s a dark, witty, provocative re-imagine of Shakespeare…seriously brilliant on many levels.

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, Book of the Year

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