The Fixer

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Set in czarist Russia, The Fixer is the story of the strains and anxieties that beset a man who finds himself a stranger in his community and a victim of irrational prejudice as a wave of anti-Semitic hysteria engulfs a town after the murder of a boy. Yakov Bok, an ordinary handyman, is charged with the "ritual murder" of the boy simply because of his Jewish heritage. The story of Bok's struggle in an atmosphere of hate is universally applicable to that of any victim of a ...

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The Fixer: A Novel

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Overview

Set in czarist Russia, The Fixer is the story of the strains and anxieties that beset a man who finds himself a stranger in his community and a victim of irrational prejudice as a wave of anti-Semitic hysteria engulfs a town after the murder of a boy. Yakov Bok, an ordinary handyman, is charged with the "ritual murder" of the boy simply because of his Jewish heritage. The story of Bok's struggle in an atmosphere of hate is universally applicable to that of any victim of a miscarriage of justice and mob prejudice.

Winner of the 1967 National Book Award

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brilliant [and] harrowing . . . Historical reality combined with fictional skill and beauty of a high order make [it] a novel of startling importance." —-Elizabeth Hardwick, Vogue

"What makes it a great book, above and beyond its glowing goodness, has to do with something else altogether: its necessity...This novel, like all great novels reminds us that we must do something." — Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated

"The Fixer deserves to rank alongside the great Jewish-American novels of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth." —The Independent (London)

"A literary event in any season." —Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Bernard Malamud (1914 - 1986) wrote eight novels; he won the Pulizer Prize and the National Book Award for The Fixer, and the National Book Award for The Magic Barrel, a book of stories. Born in Brooklyn, he taught for many years at Bennington College in Vermont.

Biography

Bernard Malamud (1914-1986), perhaps more than any Jewish-American author in the twentieth century, including Saul Bellow, translated the literature of the Eastern European shtetl to the streets of America. So carefully written, so diligently constructed, are his stories and novels that one could erringly view them as narratives that represent a certain current of "Jewish" writing, or as period pieces. Upon numerous re-readings of his many works, the exact opposite feeling is engendered. This is one of the most profound literati of our age, and his contributions will surely transcend the earthly time in which they were written.

Because of the reconstruction of The Natural (1952) as a movie with a happy ending, belying the bitter pill swallowed by slugger Roy Hobbs at the end of the book, Malamud's popularity has enjoyed a revival, particularly for elevating the game of baseball - already an American fantasy - to the realm of mythos. The truth was that true to his literary forebears, I.L. Peretz and Sholom Aleichem, Malamud's reliance upon myth, legend, and magic often helped convey the most intimate details of existence, and consequently, life's pathos and sadness as much as life's joy and fulfillment. Malamud explicated the tragic role of the Jew in many of his stories, including The Fixer (1966), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and later was adapted into a motion picture. That novel was based on the true story of Mendel Beilis, victim of the Kiev Blood Libel of 1913.

The stories are marked by a faithfulness to accent and tone that lends an unmistakable reality to every sentence and idea Malamud chose to set forth. The Magic Barrel (1954) is the diadem of his many short pieces. The sufferings of a rabbinic student, Leo Finkle, and his heroic but ungainly attempt to turn his life inside out, as he grasps desperately with his forlorn search for a marriage partner, are wrenching and inexpressibly moving. Suffering is Malamud's focus, and no author probed the subject more intensely.

The crowning literary achievement for Malamud came with the publication of The Assistant (1957). Again, mixing myth with reality, a virtual monk, Morris Bober, a grocer, welcomes into his ÒcellÓ the itinerant ne'er-do-well, Frank Alpine, whose initials most surely stand for the wonder-worker, St. Francis of Assisi. In the strictness of his prose, Malamud reshapes the grocery into a kind of Jewish monastery, as Frank, the repentant, becomes Morris's disciple in training for a new vocation. At a certain point in his novitiate, Frank asks Morris: "Tell me why it is that Jews suffer so much? It seems to me that they like to suffer, don't they?" Morris answers: "Do you like to suffer? They suffer because they are Jews." Frank responds: "That's what I mean, they suffer more than they have to." Morris replies: "If you live, you suffer. Some people suffer more, but not because they want. But I think if a Jew don't suffer for the Law, he will suffer for nothing. What do you suffer for Morris?" said Frank. "I suffer for you," Morris said calmly. "What do you mean?" asked Frank. "I mean you suffer for me."

The aching reality. The underlying mythos. The seeming simplicity. All point to the immeasurable depth of a master artisan and artist whose literary bequest remains one of the Jewish community's most priceless possessions.

Author biography courtesy of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      April 28, 1914
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      March 18, 1986
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., City College of New York, 1936; M.A., Columbia University, 1942

Read an Excerpt

The Fixer

I

From the small crossed window of his room above the stable in the brickyard, Yakov Bok saw people in their long overcoats running somewhere early that morning, everybody in the same direction. Vey iz mir, he thought uneasily, something bad has happened. The Russians, coming from streets around the cemetery, were hurrying, singly or in groups, in the spring snow in the direction of the caves in the ravine, some running in the middle of the slushy cobblestone streets. Yakov hastily hid the small tin can in which he saved silver rubles, then rushed down to the yard to find out what the excitement was about. He asked Proshko, the foreman, loitering near the smoky brickkilns, but Proshko spat and said nothing.Outside the yard a black-shawled, bony-faced peasant woman, thickly dressed, told him the dead body of a child had been found nearby. "Where?" Yakov asked. "How old a child?" but she said she didn't know and hurried away. The next day the Kievlyanin reported that in a damp cave in a ravine not more than a verst and a half from the brickworks, the body of a murdered Russian boy, Zhenia Golov, twelve years old, had been found by two older boys, both fifteen, Kazimir Selivanov and Ivan Shestinsky. Zhenia, dead more than a week, was covered with stab wounds, his body bled white. After the funeral in the cemetery close by the brick factory, Richter, one of the drivers, brought in a handful of leaflets accusing the Jews of the murder. They had been printed, Yakov saw when he examined one, by the Black Hundreds organizations. Their emblem, the Imperial double-headed eagle, was imprinted on the cover, and under it: SAVE RUSSIA FROM THE JEWS. In his room that night, Yakov, in fascination, read that the boy had been bled to death for religious purposes so that the Jews could collect his blood and deliver it to the synagogue for the making of Passover matzos. Though this was ridiculous he was frightened. He got up, sat down, and got up again. He went to the window, then returned hastily and continued to read the newspaper. He was worried because the brick factory where he worked was in the Lukianovsky District, one in which Jews were forbidden to live. He had been living there for months under an assumed name and without a residence certificate. And he was frightened of the pogrom threatened in the newspaper. His own father had been killed in an incident not more than a year after Yakov's birth—something less than a pogrom, and less than useless: two drunken soldiers, shot the first three Jews in their path, his father had been the second. But the son had lived through a pogrom when he was a schoolboy, a three-day Cossackraid. On the third morning when the houses were still smoldering and he was led, with a half dozen other children, out of a cellar where they had been hiding he saw a black-bearded Jew with a white sausage stuffed into his mouth, lying in the road on a pile of bloody feathers, a peasant's pig devouring his arm.

Copyright © 1966 by Bernard Malamud, renewed 1994 by Ann D. Malamud Introduction copyright © 2004 by Jonathan Safran Foer All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    Fixer

    'The characters are all well-written, but Yakov is a masterpiece character, the kidn you cry for at the end of the story. The settings are very important in conveying the feeling of oppression. The dialogue indicates the world-weary attitude of the people of Kiev. If you like historical novels, you will love THE FIXER. It is in fact a classic.'-Keri Watson. THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud is a gripping and provacative novel with an eztremely interesting setting and characters, a well developed plot and authenic portrayal of Tsarist Russia at the genesis of the 20th century. The main character, a Jew fleeing his home town in search of work, unexpectedly ends up begging for the bare necessities of life in a desolate, damp, dank jail cell after being accused of a murder he didn't commit.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    Fixer

    'The characters are all well-written, but Yakov is a masterpiece character, the kind you cry for at the end of the story. The settings are very important in conveying the feeling of oppression. The dialogue indicates the world-weary attitude of the people of Kiev. If you like historical novels, you will love THE FIXER. It is in fact a classic.' Keri Watson, a free-lance writer, wrote the preceding words in her review of THE FIXER for Curled Up with a Book, and she understands just as I do how expert Malamud is writing descriptive passages. THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud is a gripping and provacative novel with an eztremely interesting setting and characters, a well developed plot, and an authenic portrayal of Tsarist Russia at the genesis of the 20th century. The main character, a Jew fleeing his home town in search of work, unexpectedly ends up begging for the bare necessities of life in a desolate, damp, dank jail cell after being accused of a murder he didn't commit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    A Very good book on The Russian Jews and How they were treated.

    This book is a very good book about when czars were rulers of Russia. They way they treated Yakov Bok was terrible. But eventually he survived the mos horrible torment when he was in prison. I reccomend that anyone to read this book. You can get a lot of values about how crime doesn't payand how the Russian treated the Jews.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2006

    A Very Commendable Book

    I am both a Russian and a Jew. My teacher assigned a book report and one of the books in the selection was the fixer, so i ran for that book first. This book is very intensifying, astonishing, astounding, and comiserating all at once. One of Bernard Malamud's best. Every chapter advented a new scenario about the main character's future, and many chapters dwelled on his past.The more i read the more i grew hungry to find out what would be the fate of the poor Jew.It is a very strong and powerful book.This book has given me a good look on how the Jews were treated during the last Tsar of Russia.This book has taught me a lot and i would recommend it to anyone, even if they are not Russian or a Jew.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2002

    Good Stuff

    I've read a few by Malamud, and this is one of the more cynical. The Fixer leaves his small town in Czarist Russia hoping for a better life in the big city. He doesn't find it. This is a story about what's wrong with people- bigotry, authoritarianism, ingratitude, etc. If you're one of those who likes to read happy, life-is-great books then steer clear of this novel. But if you can appreciate good writing and don't mind an author with a critical mind then The Fixer is quite solid.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2001

    The Fixer Fixed My World!

    I was given this book as a school assignment and I thought it would be another boring book I had to read. But instead, it was the most amazing book I ever read. I couldn't put it down, I was at the edge of my seat and every time I turned the page to the next one, I was more taken into the book because of all the suspicion it held me in. YOU to can enjoy this book if you read it today!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2001

    Search Your Soul

    The Fixer was a penetrating novel, which, I have to admit, I just chose at the last minute one day at the library. The book kept me on edge and I was finished reading it before the evening was up. I have since read and thoroughly enjoyed the book many times after that, and recommend it to anyone who is ready for serious soul-searching.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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