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The Pawnbroker

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  299 Ratings  ·  42 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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180th out of 541 books — 2,210 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,288)
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Feb 03, 2013 Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont rated it really liked it
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
Kasa Cotugno
I tried to read this book over 50 years ago, when the memory of the movie was still seared into my mind. Full disclosure, it was so evocative that I had to put it aside and never picked it up again. Now, at a remove of this amount of time, its power has not diminished. But this time, it held me for its entire length.

At that time I didn't know the tragedy of Edward Lewis Wallant, its author, dead at the age of 36 from an aneurysm. Had he lived longer, he would have definitely enjoyed a reputation
...more
Lorilin
Sep 24, 2015 Lorilin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, arc
Sol Nazerman runs a pawn shop in a low-income neighborhood. His business is mostly legitimate--sure, he pays money for the random trinkets brought in by his destitute neighbors--but the business isn't profitable. And he's only able to stay afloat through the patronage of a local criminal who is using Sol's business as a vessel to launder his money.

Sol lives an isolated and sad existence. As the story advances, we see why. Sol is a Holocaust survivor--the only one of his nuclear family to make i
...more
Melinda
Jan 26, 2016 Melinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
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Sol Nazerman is a victim of the Holocaust, as you become familiar with Sol you understand he is far from the label of survivor. He's best described as a dead man walking, an automaton of trauma. Broken from all he has endured and lost, impacting his life greatly, the mental and emotional damage unrepairable. An affecting story of tremendous loss, family, sacrifice. A story of picking up the pieces when every thing has been stolen from you. Well
...more
Erika Dreifus
Immensely honored to be part of the team at Fig Tree Books that will be re-publishing this classic novel in the fall. Our edition features a new foreword by Dara Horn.
jordan
Jan 18, 2016 jordan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like reading early Bellow. Makes me wonder when writers decided that stories involving the Holocaust had to either be morality plays or drenched in shmaltz.
Corey
Jan 30, 2016 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moving and powerful, even more than the fine film made from it.
Marla Glenn
Jan 10, 2011 Marla Glenn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
Jan 18, 2014 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism, adult
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
Samantha
Sep 05, 2015 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was dark, but I could not put it down! Would recommend. I received this book through Goodreads Firstreads.
Charles Weinblatt
The Pawnbroker is a haunting, powerful book about the vast gamut of human behavior, including some of the darkest moments in human history. But it’s not a book about the Holocaust.

It’s about the cognitive destruction of a Holocaust survivor. It’s the haunting story of a man named Sol, so embittered by life experiences that he has become immune to any form of human sympathy, compassion, or love. He lives in constant desperation, unable to find a release from horrific dreams and equally powerless
...more
Buchdoktor
Oct 22, 2015 Buchdoktor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neuauflagen und Neuübersetzungen von Klassikern erobern gerade den Buchmarkt (Von Stoner, über Zwei Schwestern bis zu Was sie begehren), Wallants Klassiker von 1961 wurde nun zum ersten Mal ins Deutsche übersetzt.
Sol Nazerman trägt seine Häftlingsnummer aus einem deutschen KZ sichtbar auf den Unterarm tätowiert. In Spanisch Harlem, wo er ein bescheidenes Pfandhaus betreibt, kann man nicht von jedem Kunden erwarten, dass er die Bedeutung dieser Ziffern kennt. Vielleicht ist das für Sol auch bess
...more
William Bentrim
Oct 16, 2015 William Bentrim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was hard to read. It is depressing and designed to be so. Sol Nazerman is a survivor of the Holocaust at least physically. Emotionally he has deadened his soul and thoroughly truncated his emotions. This book shows his life after his emotional death and the catharsis that shatters his emotional dam.

This is a reprint of a book released in 1961. There is no exploration of the Holocaust nor any lengthy descriptions There are emotional Instagrams that pop up through the book of Sol's conce
...more
Katie
Mar 09, 2008 Katie rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2010 David rated it really liked it
An unflinching look at someone living in the aftermath of the Holocaust. A gripping story that holds the reader's attentin throughouot.
Brian Keiper
Mar 29, 2014 Brian Keiper rated it it was amazing
Powerful. Moving. Like the movie based on it, this novel deserves far more attention than it receives.
Jane
Jul 13, 2009 Jane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: holocaust
Great story! Be sure to see the movie with Rod Steiger in the lead role.
Zach
Feb 03, 2016 Zach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dara Horn called it a masterpiece in her essay "Against Holocaust Novels."

The late, great D.G. Myers wrote, "The Pawnbroker is not really a Holocaust novel at all. It is something different. And at least when it comes to the American novel, something better. The Pawnbroker is one of the last examples of a genre that has largely disappeared from American shores — the meaning-making novel, the novel with something to say, the novel with an overt and unembarrassed message."

All I have to say is that
...more
Erika Dreifus
Devastating read.
Judy Golden
Jul 12, 2015 Judy Golden rated it liked it
Book was written in 1961 about a man who was in concentration camp in Germany and survived without his family who were killed murdered really. It was made into a superb and very dark movie. I saw movie few times and just learned it was a book. what you can get from this if whether or not you are Jewish is the problems of a life that shuts out Everyone and trusts nobody because of something from the past. This is a gentle story of a major change in a man's life and way of Being.
Dorothy
Oct 29, 2014 Dorothy rated it it was amazing
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?
Hazelj jones
Jan 07, 2016 Hazelj jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
I liked this book very much! This is a book you can not rush through! So meny details in the telling that make up the story .Its a sad story of the times in the life of a man who seems like he has bad memories hidden deep in his soul that he keeps his emotions in check whenever possible .It seemed to me he was being used by the local gangster .,but in part in seems as if he is just walking through life and it all no longer mattered .
Just a remarkable read by a very talented author .Too bad Edwar
...more
Rachel
Sep 24, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it
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
BeaMDG
Mar 05, 2014 BeaMDG rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
¡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
Jason
For some reason or another I could not get into book at all. Was bugged a lot with so many spelling error not to mention on the forward chapter alone. Don't know if my book was one of the first one in a bad batch or what
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
Aug 18, 2007 Jodi Lu rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2015 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Very good. I quite reminded me of Walter White in Breaking Bad.
Rupert
Sep 22, 2009 Rupert rated it really liked it
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.
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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.
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“He breathed, with his assistant, the dust of the much-handled merchandise, the imaginable odors of sweat and pride and weeping; and it was an indefinable yet powerful atmosphere, which gave them an intimacy neither desired.” 0 likes
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