Philip Roth’s career as a novelist has long featured the self-revealing and self-reflexive concerns that pervade Operation Shylock. He has repeatedly invented avatars of himself in his protagonists, straddling the borderline between fiction and autobiography; after all, this novel is subtitled “A Confession.” In the first chapter, Philip, after having been informed of Pipik’s impersonation, muses, “It’s Zuckerman, I thought . . . it’s Kepesh, it’s Tarnopol and Portnoy—it’s all of them in one, broken free of print and mockingly reconstituted as a single satirical facsimile of me.”
Alexander Portnoy is the protagonist of Roth’s most popular novel, Portnoy’s Complaint (1969). Peter Tarnopol is the central character in My Life as a Man (1974). David Alan Kepesh is the Kafkaesque victim of The Breast (1972). Nathan Zuckerman, Roth’s most identifiable surrogate, stars in Zuckerman Bound (1985), which brings together three sequential novels, The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), and The Anatomy Lesson (1983). Zuckerman is virtually a Rothian clone, author of a successful, controversial novel, Carnovsky, that closely resembles Portnoy’s Complaint. This tetralogy is probably Roth’s most varied, thoughtful, playful, and altogether best fictive performance.
“Philip Roth” as the protagonist of Operation Shylock is far more aggressive than Nathan Zuckerman. Roth the novelist...
(The entire section is 626 words.)