Published in February 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
After his previous novel, J, about anti-semitic massacres in a near-future Britain, Howard Jacobson returns to his usual comic mode by rewriting The Merchant of Venice as part of a series in which authors from Jeanette Winterson to Jo Nesbø base new novels on Shakespeare plays.
Jacobson transplants 16th-century Venice to a flashy Manchester suburb with a cast including an airhead footballer and a spoiled reality star ripe for the sort of grumpy-old-man satire on show in his 2012 novel Zoo Time. The persecuted and vengeful moneylender Shylock finds his modern analogue in Strulovitch, an art collector in crisis after his daughter falls for a Christian who refuses to be circumcised. Shylock himself turns up to offer Strulovitch advice and explain matters from the original play, such as whether he intended to take a pound of flesh from Antonio’s heart or from his penis.