It received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in It is the story of a Jewish handyman, or fixer, who discovers that there is no rational reason for human cruelty; he also learns that freedom requires constant vigilance. The novel, set in czarist Russia in the early 20th century, tells the story of Yakov Bok, who leaves his ruined marriage and rundown village to seek his fortune in Kiev. His tinkering includes altruistic acts of kindness to others, but his generosity is repaid with misfortune and vilification. When he offers a ride to an old woman, his cart breaks down; when he helps an old Jewish man, observers turn against him, accusing him of the ritual murder of a Christian boy; when he rescues an ailing anti-Semitic industrialist, the man eventually brings about his arrest.

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Yes — it is! So, try telling that blissed out truth to Yakov Bok the poor goon who gets accused of the Jewish ritual murder of a 12 year old boy and spends 3 years in increasingly miserable prison cells awaiting trial.

Everybody thinks this book is very profound, all about the human condition and the philosophy of Spinoza and the racist state and so forth, but I thought it was like being the clapper in a bell that would never stop ringing. As the day wore on he groaned often, tore his hair with both fists, and knocked his head repeatedly against the wall P91 Manacled, his legs chained, nervously exhausted, his body in flight though he tried with ten fingers to hold on to his mind, he stood with five armed guards at his back P The leg chains were too short for Yakov to climb the steep steps, so he was seized under the arms by two of the gendarmes and dragged and pushed up P All day th fixer walked in his cell, sometimes he ran, five steps, three, five, three, breaking the circuit to hurl himself against the wall, or smash his fists against the metal door P At five in the morning the day began and never ended.

In the early evening dark he was already lying on his mattress, trying to sleep Sometimes he tried all night. P He was chained to the wall again. Things went badly. Now and again a defence attorney appears to dangle some distant fruitless hope in front of the half-dead Jakov and he grasps at this faint possibility with a painful naivete. The defence attorney usually commits suicide or is mysteriously drowned within a few pages. Yes, most of this sorry tale is based on the real case of Mendel Beilis, a falsely accused Jew who — remarkably — was acquitted by the Christians on the jury when he finally got tried.

That part is made up. The wrongly accused man — boy, we have a lot of those in our fiction. We never get to be with the perpetrators. So we readers always get to feel totally righteous. Jonathan Safran Foer in his introduction says this is pre-eminently a novel to galvanise the reader into political action When I finished reading this novel, I felt castigated and inspired.

And excusing myself from political activity felt wrong He is much more robust than me. When I finished this novel I was thinking wow, if you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time there is really not one thing you can do about it.

I was actually de-galvanised. I was enervated. It was all much too much. For a much better novel about the grinding misery of prison : One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn For a novel which makes the antisemitism of The Fixer seem like a stroll in the park on a pleasant Sunday morning, should you really want such a thing, see The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski.


Bernard Malamud

A brother, Eugene, born in , lived a hard and lonely life and died in his fifties. Malamud entered adolescence at the start of the Great Depression. He received his B. He was excused from military service in World War II because he was the sole support of his widower father.


The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud

He is arrested under suspicion of having murdered a Christian boy during the celebration of Passover. His situation moves from bad to worse as he is then incarcerated without a trial and refused visitation rights or legal guidance. His captors also question him about his political inclinations and in his defense he says that he holds none. He also asserts that he is not at all a religious man despite having been born a Jew. While waiting out his sentence in jail Yakov muses upon the sad nature of his life and the character of humanity. A great source of his distress is the awareness that anyone who attempts to assist him either ends up arrested like himself or is exposed to some form of persecution by government officials. His primary backer, the Investigating Magistrate Bibikov , is placed under solitary confinement on fabricated charges after a routine visit to Yakov in jail.


The Fixer Summary

Yakov Bok, a luckless Jewish handyman, abandoned by his wife, decides to leave the shtetl, seeking improved fortune in the outside world. In Kiev, an opportunity for advancement presents itself, and Yakov, somewhat warily, takes it, leading him into circumstances where politics and history --and possibly an indifferent God as well-- will conspire against him. Yakov is thrown in jail, absurdly accused of the ritual murder of a young Christian boy. Languishing in prison, enduring torture and indignity while waiting for a day in court that may never come, Yakov is left to wrestle with his own haunted memories and to wonder whether he can find any meaning or purpose in his suffering and any justice in a society where Jews have always been made into victims. His first stories were published in small literary journals in the early s, while he worked as a census bureau clerk. But he destroyed the manuscript of his first novel, "because I thought I could do better. In , he began teaching at Bennington College in Vermont, where he remained for twenty years while continuing to write short stories and novels.

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