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Abstract

In his article "Reverse Anti-Semitism in the Fiction of Bellow and Roth" Jay L. Halio discusses anti-Semitism in Philip Roth's fiction that what might be called reverse anti-Semitism: the active reaction by Jews who are subjected to anti-Semitism. This aspect of Roth's work is not often discussed: it is not the same as philo-Semitism, which takes a different form entirely. Since Roth was an admirer of Saul Bellow, Halio begins by considering reverse anti-Semitism in Bellow's early novel The Victim. In the novel the protagonist, Asa Leventhal, is accused by a character named Allbee of costing him his job and his subsequent downfall because of some anti-Semitic remarks he once made involving a friend of Leventhal's. According to Allbee, Leventhal provoked Allbee's boss in such a way that he blamed Allbee for the altercation, which led to his being fired. To clarify more fully the nature of reverse anti-Semitism, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice is invoked to show how the Jewish moneylender Shylock takes revenge against his Christian antagonist, the Venetian merchant Antonio, who has scorned him repeatedly and in many ways. Finally, Halio focuses on Roth's treatment of reverse anti-Semitism in Portnoy's Complaint, where Alexander's actions with gentile women he seduces is prompted at least in part by feelings of revenge for the anti-Semitism his father has experienced over many years. Halio also discusses reverse anti-Semitism in Roth's novel Operation Shylock.