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The Victim
Saul Bellow
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The Victim

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,264 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
Bellow's second novel features Asa Leventhal, sub-editor of a trade magazine, and he is a natural victim; a man uncertain of himself, never free from the nagging suspicion that the other guy might be right. So when he meets a down-at-hell stranger in the park one day and finds himself being accused of ruining the man's life...well, he half-believes it. And because he half- ...more
Paperback, 0 pages
Published January 1st 1970 by Signet (first published 1947)
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May 23, 2009 Jimmy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's impossible to please everyone. Hopefully, there isn't a soul on this earth that doesn't realize that, even if it takes them a while to do so. An obsession with appeasing people in life is, in my opinion, one of the most vain and futile preoccupations that a person can have. For every individual, there is bound to be at least a handful of people that they will be despised by. It rarely takes very much either. We make judgements based upon someone's image, ideology, dietary preferences, habit ...more
Feb 14, 2012 Ivana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who is the victim?...and of what?...even after having finished reading this novel I'm not sure. What I'm sure of is that it is a wonderful novel.

I loved the complexity of the protagonist, and the ambiguity of it in life, it's hard to figure out who is guilty and of what. In that sense the novel felt philosophical at times. For the first fifty pages or so, things felt much too simple and the characters stereotyped but the rest of the book was excellent- it more than made up for it. P
Bellow's second novel was written shortly after the war when reports of the extermination camps and the war-crime trials of Nuremberg were under way. Bellow doesn't address these topics directly, but his protagonist, Leventhal, finds himself "persecuted" by a fallen, moneyed WASP, and generally surrounded by christians who subtly and not so subtly treat him as a lesser person.

Bellow shows great skill in trying to deal with bigotry and anti-Semitism without turning the novel into a political tra
Feb 10, 2016 F.R. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alienation is the theme here. Yes, we’re also in the realm of existentialism, and without a doubt it’s an examination of polite anti-Semitism after the Second World War, but a sense of alienation is all pervading – and that’s both the book’s triumph and its major flaw. The loneliness of the protagonist, Leventhal, a man who is assailed from all sides and who can’t seem to connect on a meaningful level with anybody (except maybe his wife, who is elsewhere for nearly all of the novel), is beautifu ...more
Feb 12, 2008 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Saul Bellow
There are some authors who could write about almost anything and I would follow along quite eagerly. Unfortunately, Saul Bellow is not one of those authors.

The victim is a story about Asa Leventhal and his unexpected acquantance, Kirby Albee, who accuses Leventhal of deliberately ruining his life. While the premise was promising, I was disappointed with where it went. The implicit threat that Albee represents is never really carried through, despite the fact that there were myriad oppurtinities
Mar 07, 2013 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
It was impossible to tell, in starting out, what was going to happen. And it was unfair, perhaps, to have to account at forty for what was done at twenty. But unless one was more than human or less than human, as Mr. Schlossberg put it, the payment had to be met. Leventhal disagreed about “less than human.” Since it was done by so many, what was it but human? “More than human” was for a much smaller number. But most people had fear in them – fear of life, fear of death, of life more than death, ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Adrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The way Bellow writes, the main character Leventhal is a living breathing sweaty presence as heavy as the New York summer humidity and the un-air-conditioned subway cars that pervade this novel. Bellow writes in a precise, descriptive manner, and the tension rarely flags, so it is difficult to turn away from a character (and thus from the novel itself) who otherwise would be too rancorous and unlikeable to endure.

Leventhal is, essentially, angry: at other people who are disloyal or disrespectful
Mar 25, 2009 Frederick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bellow
Here is what I posted, a few minutes ago, about the novella THE VICTIM is based upon: "THE ETERNAL HUSBAND is the model for Saul Bellow's novel, THE VICTIM. Having read and liked THE VICTIM, I decided to read Dostoevsky's novella. I read it in the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky. Dostoevsky's masterpiece is not only the model for Bellow's book, it is the blueprint. Bellow's genius was to introduce the theme of antisemitism into Dostoevsky's story of a Christian sinner and his Christian nem ...more
Duffy Pratt
Here's a book about New York City in the summer without air conditioning. Spice it up with a touch of guilt and paranoia, then add a liberal helping of anti-semitism, and it makes for a stew that is squalid, dull, and a bit oppressive. I kept waiting for something to happen, something to break the malaise. But it never did, or when it did, nothing followed as a result, if that makes any sense. Bellow's writing is very strong, but not strong enough really to carry off a book filled with vaguely u ...more
Jim Leckband
"The Victim" is early Bellow and I miss the exuberance of character that explodes in his later novels. The plots of his novels are never anything special and the writing itself is not great enough (though very good). One discovery to me of his recent biographies is that Bellow found a lot of his novels in his life. So it is it not even "invention" that we get out of Bellow.

It is character we read Bellow for. The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, Humboldt's Gift and so on. The main protagonist o
Aug 02, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A profoundly disappointing book. I don't even feel enough to vent about it - just apathetic, willing to let it fade out of memory.
Chiara Pagliochini

Asa Leventhal è un ebreo che vive a New York, socialmente ed economicamente ben piazzato. Quando la moglie lo lascia per trascorrere qualche settimana fuori città, Asa comincia ad avvertire una schiacciante sensazione di pesantezza e solitudine. Ad aggravare il tutto subentrano complicazioni di salute del nipotino Mickey e gli allarmismi della cognata Elena, che in assenza del fratello Max ricadono sulle sue spalle. Ma, giacché l’abitudine ci insegna che se qualcosa va male potrà andare solo
Jul 19, 2009 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All; Fans of Americana
Recommended to Tyler by: Author's Reputation
For the same reasons I liked Mr. Sammler's Planet and Seize the Day, I like this earlier novel of Saul Bellow’s, too. Each is a thinking novel, and each imprints Bellow’s distinctive touch.

The plot centers on the fallout from a job interview. The hero, Asa Leventhal, is beset by a man who lost his job because of something Leventhal once did during an interview. Leventhal had no idea this would happen. He looks back on that interview one way. But as he asks around, he discovers that other people
Every sentence in this 1947 novel by Saul Bellow is rich and worth savoring. As I was following the plot I kept wanting to slow down and read whole paragraphs over again. The setting is so much a part of the tone of the character Leventhal's state of mind. Most of the time it is a stifling NYC August without air conditioning. I really don't know how people survived from the descriptions in this book. Leventhal is an interesting main character. He is very average. His nemesis is a man named Albee ...more
Philip Lane
Dec 23, 2013 Philip Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this though I can see it is not the most pleasant reading. It felt to me like a very humdrum realistic version of Kafka. Leventhall has a very ordinary life in New York but starts to feel things becoming too much as his wife has left for a few weeks, he is called on to help out with a sick nephew and an acquaintance starts to blame him for losing his job. It has happened to me when problems have cropped up in my private life and my professional life at the same time. It all starts gettin ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
What a crazy, weird book. I absolutely flew through this, because I'd been meaning to read it forever, and had started a while back and put it down, so I basically just caught the main plotlines and characters and missed a lot of the intricacies, though it seems a fairly simple book. But what an intriguing setup! Has that kind of Kafkaesque inevitability to it. But yeah, the protag/antag setup was just so interesting, nothing I've really read before. Totally a unique book, while also being just ...more
Oct 30, 2007 Chuybacca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As I was reading this book, I enjoyed the writing and was intrigued by the progression of events. However, once I finished it, I didn't grasp the whole of the book. I felt disappointed.

But then I realized that I couldn't stop thinking about it. I think everyone can think of a time in their life, even to a minor extent, when they could relate to Leventhal and understand the inner torment and paranoia that he goes through.

What would you do if a stranger outrageously accused you of ruining his li
Todd Zack
Dec 15, 2015 Todd Zack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here we go. Leventhal IS Allbee (I'll be). You'll notice that Leventhal are never seen together, except near the end of the novel by Leventhals brother, Max (whom we are told he hardly ever see's and has a week relationship with). Leventhal is also Max. Therefore Max's children are really Leventhal's children. Max's wife is Leventhal's wife (ex-wife actually). The young boy who dies from an illness is Leventhal's own child.

Look at what's happening here in this novel. When Leventhal first meets
Sep 19, 2014 Lucas_Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saul Bellow once referred to his two earliest novels, ‘The Dangling Man’ and ‘The Victim’, as his ‘M.A. and Ph.D’ respectively. It wasn’t until his third novel, ‘Augie March’, that Bellow found his unique literary voice, a sort of sprawling and introspective philosophizing that mixed comedy with tragedy, realism with mysticism. One gets hints of this in ‘the Victim’, but on a whole the novel is distinctly different from his later works. For one, it is much more tightly constructed. The narrative ...more
Аса Левенталь, обычный офисный работник, у которого есть несправедливое начальство, жена в командировке, трусливый брат, невежественная жена брата и грызущий его изнутри еврейский вопрос, как-то днём идёт в парк и натыкается на старого знакомого Олби, который однажды в его присутствии нехорошо пошутил про евреев. Олби уверен, что после той его шутки Левенталь ему и отомстил: Олби теперь не берут ни на какую работу, жена умерла, все отвернулись и во всём этом виноват, конечно, Аса. Дальше история ...more
Frank Donnelly
Apr 15, 2015 Frank Donnelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have now finished this book. I am sort of afraid to ask this question, but I am filled with curiosity. Does anyone know if Saul Bellows was influenced by Kafka? The reason I wonder is this. As I worked thru this novel, I felt a vague but constant twinge that I was reading a work strongly influenced by "The Trial" by Kafka.

I am just beginning to study Saul Bellow. I am reading his work in chronological order. I started with Dangling Man. I like this work very much. But this second work seems to
Richard Moss
Oct 29, 2015 Richard Moss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Saul Bellow has been one of those authors I've been meaning to read for some time.

When I saw The Victim in a second-hand sale, it seemed the perfect opportunity to plunge in.

This was Bellow's second novel - he called it his PhD work, the fruits of a writer still finding his way and his voice.

But it's mightily impressive. And in Kirby Allbee, Bellow created a memorable and compelling character.

Allbee is not our protagonist though. That's Asa Leventhal - a Jewish man in early middle age, who finds
Jan 22, 2012 Albert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saul Bellow is a clear-thinking, all-seeing, foot-in-the-Classics big male American writer. The book is a little noir-ish, but most of the interesting stuff is internal -- digressions, flashbacks, arguments, paranoia. Reading this is like being with an incredibly erudite being who is forced to live on earth.

As a way into Bellow, this is your best bet. I feel his later work is an exaggeration of the internal stuff I named above.
Dec 24, 2011 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another literary plot which would've been nullified by the existence of air conditioning.

Bellow's muscular rpose was as strident as ever. My wife read this a few years ago and pointed out how Edward Albee's Zoo Story has a similar plot device: oh, the antagonist is also named Allbee in Bellow's novel.
Ada Sterling
Aug 30, 2014 Ada Sterling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read an interview with Saul Bellow in which he noted he wrote this book in a somewhat restrained fashion, as he didn't feel confident at the time in certain aspects of his identity as a writer. I think this sense of restraint is evident in the somewhat heavy-handed consistency of the style; and the way in which the moral and dramatic conflict between Leventhal and Allbee was never fully delved into. Their apparent resolution in the ending was quite pat and disappointing. But the prose itself i ...more
Aug 28, 2007 Lin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
While the book was not a bad read, it didnt succeed in holding my attention too well. I had to continuously make myself read it, which is not really a positive judgement to make on a book.
Apr 20, 2014 Nathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
feels like Bellow wrote this in a week, in a good way, like because he's a genius or something.
Doug Walters
Dec 23, 2015 Doug Walters rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at dark introspection and paranoia, both of which follow a chance meeting with a man, Kirby Allbee, who blames the protagonist, Asa Leventhal, for his earlier downfall in life. I saw minor connections - possibly because I wanted to - with Roman Polanski's 'The Tenant' and its voyeuristic apartment-come-to-life aspects of fear and conflict, minus the supernatural aspects of course.

The primary antagonist isn't the man harassing Leventhal, but instead his own mind which soon becom
Nov 24, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saul Bellow's The Victim is one of those rare books where every part of it feels just right. The backdrop (the harshly unforgiving Depression-era New York), the characters (the calloused flawed protagonist and the villain who never fails to crawl under your skin), the themes (fate, luck, blame-shifting, the ebb and flow of man's fortunes)...all of it simply comes together seamlessly.

I was most impressed by the way Bellow crafted the tension throughout the book. It was eerily constant and taut,
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Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, and served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was pu
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“Cunado uno se vuelve contra sí mismo, tampoco los demás significan ya nada para él” 1 likes
“It was clear that the man was no fool. But what was the use of not being a fool if you acted like this?” 1 likes
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