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The Pawnbroker

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Sol Nazerman survived the Holocaust. His wife and children did not -he witnessed their murder in a concentration camp. He is now a Harlem pawnbroker, emotionally dead and indifferent to the desperation around him, running his shop as a front for a racketeer. Made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Rod Steiger, this is one of the most moving pieces in modern fictio ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 9th 1978 by Mariner Books (first published 1961)
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Community Reviews

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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche writes that when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss looks into you. The Pawnbroker, a novel by Edward Lewis Wallant, is about a man who has stared long into the abyss, though through no choice of his own. The abyss has made a home in his heart, the difference being this is a conscious choice on his part.

Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front begins with a memorable observation;

This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and le
...more
Marla Glenn
This was a life-changing book for me when I was 12. I'm trying to find some record of what I said about it back then. I'll be rereading it as well.
Kimberly
The writing style throughout the book was ridiculously good. It uses so many literary devices, but manages not to knock you over the head with them - a very difficult balance. It should be required reading for fiction writers. It is the type of book I wanted to savor and read several times to get every nuance. I am definitely going to read it again.

The Pawnbroker gave me so much to think about...I can hardly write about it here. Can tragedy result in a person being dead inside, or is that person
...more
Katie
I read this book for a graduate course on the Holocaust in American Fiction. The narrative is dark/heavy, but I found that I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed it.
David
An unflinching look at someone living in the aftermath of the Holocaust. A gripping story that holds the reader's attentin throughouot.
Brian Keiper
Powerful. Moving. Like the movie based on it, this novel deserves far more attention than it receives.
Jane
Great story! Be sure to see the movie with Rod Steiger in the lead role.
Dorothy
This is my third book by Wallant, and it seals him as one of my favorite authors. A very powerful book, and as his others, the theme is redemption--finding your own humanity when the worst has happened to you. Its author and protagonist is Jewish, but the theme is universal: Unexpected "Christs." What or who "saves" people?
Rachel
I was surprised by this book. At first I found it a bit tedious, but this may have been more to do with the very old copy of the book I had, in which the font was incredibly small (making it seem each page lasted forever). I got weary of the description of the pawnbroker's business and could have had less of that. The racism/bias toward all groups inherent in the story was difficult to read, though no doubt appropriate in its blatantness to the time period. All that being said, the book was an i ...more
Bea
¡Qué historia!
Es uno de esos libros que no necesita de acción, ni giros en la trama para ser una muy buena lectura. Más que entretenida es interesante. Es un libro que hay que leer con todos los sentidos puestos en él. A fuego lento. No tiene un ritmo trepidante pero cada página interesa más que la anterior. Con un protagonista bastante traumatizado debido a su experiencia en un campo de concentración nazi, y con unos secundarios que son imprescindibles en la trama.
Por cierto, gran prólogo de Ed
...more
Geoff Sebesta
Another of those books that I have no idea where I got it. A historical curiosity, an early holocaust novel that sort of reads like warmed over Chester Himes.

The book does catalog some impressive cruelties, and the author really likes to indulge in long lists of the terrible people who went to pawnshops in 1961. It's written in a very 1950s "oh-so-realistic" style and it's difficult to tell if this book is about a racist culture or if it's just written by somebody who was really racist.

Jodi Lu
okay so in my mind this book is inextricably entwined with spike lee's do the right thing. i couldn't tell you WHY b/c i don't remember this book at all. that IS my favorite spike lee joint but i'm fairly convinced i didn't love this book and also that the connection is probably just by accident. i think there was someone named jesus in this book but i could be wrong. maybe there was a racial/violence thing going on and that's the culprit. who knows?
Patrick
Very good. I quite reminded me of Walter White in Breaking Bad.
Rupert
Brutal book that unflinchingly deals with a concentration camp survivor dragging himself through monotonous days as a pawnbroker in an impoverished part of New York City in the '50s. Once again Wallant, who wrote The Tenants of Moonbloom, one of my favorite novels that I've read in the last few years, finds spiritual salvation in the most detailed, crisp writing possible about suffering.
Erika Dreifus
Devastating read.
John
liked the tenants of moonbloom so much -- a great nyc book -- i ordered two more of his books. looking forward to another great nyc read...

well, not quite as good as tenants, but still a strong book, notable in the holocaust canon, as well as books about nyc.
Ffiamma
sopravvivere, a volte, è peggio che morire. un uomo senza cuore e senza più radici ritrova un minimo di umanità, pian piano, impercettibilmente. libro crudele, a tratti insostenibile per quello che racconta- ma alla fine, un grande romanzo ebraicoamericano.
Colin N.
Beautifully written but utterly devastating novel. Made me despair for humanity and filled me with sadness, although it does offer a glimmer (slight)of hope in a world of darkness.
Joe Saldana
Excellent read - good character study. I also watched the movie, and felt it left out too many details from the book.
Chris Gager
Read maybe after I saw the movie. Both excellent. The movie was controversial for the breast baring scene. Date read is a guess.
Hannah  Messler
Sheesh. Richard Yates loved this and he was correct to do so. Swashbuckingly heartbreakingly beautiful and sad and weird.
Rachel
A great novel. Really raw in terms of the emotional baggage.
Geoffrey
This affected me very deeply. Wallant deserves to be better-known.
Serdar
Earnest but hasn't dated well, sorry to say.
Jason Diamond
So far, this is blowing my mind.
Megan Morrison
Megan Morrison marked it as to-read
Jul 01, 2015
Squirrel
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Wiebke
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Wallant began to write professionally at age twenty nine. He had served in the Second World War as a gunner's mate. He attended the University of Connecticut and graduated from Pratt Institute and studied writing at The New School in New York. While he worked as an advertising art director, Wallant wrote at night.

Wallant died of an aneurysm at the age of 36.
More about Edward Lewis Wallant...
The Tenants of Moonbloom The Children at the Gate Human Season The Pawnbroker: A Novel El prestamista (Libros del Asteroide)

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