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The sweet pain of betrayal

Howard Jacobson's early works show him to be a master of comic complaint and morbid eroticism. But his latest novel is a departure for more complex, compromised territory—and a sobering lesson in the interconnectedness of fidelity, love and fury

By Jonathan Derbyshire   150

The Act of Love by Howard Jacobson (Jonathan Cape, £17.99)

Felix Quinn, the narrator of Howard Jacobson’s new novel, is “afflicted” by love. He is a connoisseur of its “agonies,” a veteran of “sexual insult.” The Act of Love is irrigated by Felix’s obsession with “that category of classic novel… whose subject is humiliation.”

This is familiar territory for Jacobson. Writing in Prospect earlier this year, he warned that “you can’t mess around with sex, in life or literature. It is never not serious.” Especially not in literature, you can imagine him wanting to add—and certainly not in his own…

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