Book of the Week

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson.. Photo: PA Photo/Hogarth
Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson.. Photo: PA Photo/Hogarth

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Any author attempting to rework one of the classics must have full confidence in their own ability as a storyteller.

Howard Jacobson certainly has the pedigree to take on a modern interpretation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice.

Winner of the Man Booker Prize (for The Finkler Question) and a writer of celebrated fiction and non-fiction, Jacobson is ideally suited to write about one of literature’s most famed Jews.

Jewish himself, Jacobson brings a telling insight to a tale of wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch whose battles with the women in his life lead him down a path which will eventually see him demanding his pound of flesh.

Set in the other world of Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, where appearances matter more than principles, Shylock Is My Name examines what it is like to be Jewish in modern-day Britain.

The principals of the story - Plurabelle and Beatrice, Simon and Shylock, D’Anton and Gratan - battle with the age-old question of whether repaying a debt is worth the physical loss and emotional turmoil which can accompany it. Jacobson also poses the question of what it is like to be hated, derided and despised simply for who you are.

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.

In writing it, Jacobson has also proved that his command of the art of storytelling is worthy of renewed praise.