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The Fixer

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  9,269 ratings  ·  501 reviews
A classic that won Malamud both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

The Fixer (1966) is Bernard Malamud's best-known and most acclaimed novel—one that makes manifest his roots in Russian fiction, especially that of Isaac Babel.

Set in Kiev in 1911 during a period of heightened anti-Semitism, the novel tells the story of Yakov Bok, a Jewish handyman blamed for the
Paperback, 335 pages
Published May 5th 2004 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1966)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,269 ratings  ·  501 reviews

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Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 20-ce, fiction, us
After reading Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millennium, which is in large part about the horrid pogroms unleashed on Europe's Jews in the Middle Ages, I thought The Fixer would be a compatible co-read. The novel is set in Russia between the end of the Russo-Japanese War (1905) and the start of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917). The Fixer tells the story of Yakov Bok, a Jew dwelling in a Russian shtetl 30 versts from Kiev who tries to work as a general handyman, a fixer. But there's not much to ...more
It was one of my required readings in college.

Like every Malamud novel, The Fixer is a very disturbing read, almost traumatic.
The writing is brilliant, but I have no intention to read it again. Ever.
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
kissing this book goodbye from my real book-shelves ... probably my fault that I didn't quite see the artistic depths of the novel.

The is a Pulitzer prize winning novel. I found it a very depressing read. It tells a story that, in its historical setting, is believable. The main character is a victim of circumstances, for which we feel sympathy, and even horror when we reflect on the fate that befalls men. But he is not actually very likable. All of these things are good, or at worst, not bad.

Paul Bryant
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Displacement activity is when you do stuff to avoid doing other stuff, so like instead of reviewing The Fixer I have been playing scrabble with daughter (we agree that ex is an allowable word) and switching the tv aimlessly on to find a drama in which they are just about to cut off John Paul Getty’s ear to prove to the father they have got the kid (I did not care to see that) and then I lectured the two cats on the importance of not chasing each other around the house at ridiculous times of the ...more
I am going to start with some quotes. Taste them, enjoy them and then roll them around in your head.

If I have any philosophy”, said Yakov Bok, “it is that life could be better than it is.

One thing I’ve learned", he thought, "there’s no such thing as an unpolitical man, especially a Jew. You can’t be one without the other, that’s clear enough. You can’t sit still and see yourself destroyed.

Yakov reflects as he goes to his trial, “What is it Spinoza says? If the state acts in ways that are ab
Elizabeth Kadetsky
May 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
A huge disappointment as I’d briefly christened Malamud My Favorite Author after having recently read The Assistant and several short stories (“The Angel Levine”!). This is the book that won Malamud the Nobel, and I had to wonder why. It’s ideological, heavy handed, a hammer on your skull, bald-faced allegory, and miserable to read, pages and pages of suffering. I know there’s a grand point here, and it has something to do with the philosophy of Spinoza (which I haven’t read), God’s betrayal of ...more
Kirsten #EnoughIsEnough
Beautifully written. Intense. Difficult. Compelling.

These are just a few words to describe this book and none of them seem to describe it correctly. It is difficult to read a book like this, especially at this time of the year.

But an important book, especially at this time of Islamophobia. Replace the word "Jew" with "Muslim" and it would describe many Americans beliefs.

The book is set in Tsarist Russia during the Jewish pogroms, but it might just as well have been set in Trump's America.

Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
"If I have any philosophy, it's that life could be better than it is."

"What suffering has taught me is the uselessness of suffering."

What can I possibly add to this? Read it for yourself. I highly recommend it, but it may not be for the faint of heart.
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Yakov Bok is non-religious and apolitical. He simply wants a better life. He is slightly bitter that life gives him lemons but no sugar to make lemonade but that does not keep him from trying to improve. He reads Spinoza to educate himself and moves to Kiev to start a better life. He is a repairman aka a "fixer". Unfortunately, he is also a Jew in Tsarist Russia.

I like Yakov. He is Everyman. He is not a hero nor a wise man. But he is sincere and honest. He is a basically honest man placed in an
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: high-five, 2017
"In chains all that was left of freedom was life, just existence; but to exist without choice was the same as death."
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What is victory, but a victory in the heart? What is the greatest freedom, but the freedom of the mind?

In the Fixer, Yakov Bok is a man accused of a brutal crime, and is forced to see new depths of human degradation every day during his imprisonment. His suffering hasn’t just begun then; no, his suffering began since time immemorial, when his people were persecuted for their beliefs, and subjected to vile, violent and senseless racism (not that racism has any sense in the first place).

‘In or o
Jan 18, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodbye, r-r, one-star
Well that was depressing. There may have been a time or two I have been this relieved that I have finally finished a book, but it hasn't happened often. It was such a relief to close that book knowing I never have to open it again. I know that "The Fixer" has won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, just knowing that made me go and find out what it takes to win either of these awards and this is what I found just in case you're interested:

"Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: for disting
This book was definitely thought-provoking and interesting, but it was depressing. So depressing. Every time there was a glimmer of hope, there was something to extinguish it. It was hard to read in large chunks. I don't think I can say I enjoyed reading it, but it sparked conversation with my husband and made me think about history and prejudice. Worth reading, but a super downer.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those rare books that shake you to the core. Amazing.
Simon Wood
Aug 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I first read Bernard Malamud's "The Fixer", which I picked up for the now unimaginable sum of ten pence in a charity shop, over a dozen years ago. It struck me at that time as a powerful and even important work. Reading it again so many years later I wondered how it would hold up.

Yakov Bok, the Fixer of the title, is a free-thinking Jew whose trade is that of a handyman from the Pale in the Ukraine (where Jews are legally allowed to reside) in the last years of the Tsarist
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ian Pardo
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Bernard Malamud's Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winner is a nightmare rendered masterfully as art. Yakov Bok's story is that of human dignity, and the search thereof even in the most indignant of circumstances. According to Yakov, if he has a philosophy, it's that things in this world can be better.

And this perhaps is the book's greatest legacy. In the insightful foreword by Jonathan Safran Foer, he says that the world is the broken thing and that everyone can be its fixer. And though
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this story. However, I wondered how it could be nominated and even win a Pulitzer because of one of the requisites for judging: the book must be about life in the United States. Ah, well.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very powerful and heartfelt. I stayed up all night reading it. Sometimes it reminded me of Nineteen Eighty-Four, but with far more heart and hope. Sometimes the suffering and torment was almost too much. (view spoiler) Some of the character ...more
Joseph Sciuto
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bernard Malamud's, Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "The Fixer" is a powerful, harrowing book and like any great piece of literature, it extends beyond its characters and setting and into the future and back into the past and forever remains relevant. Published in 1966, it takes place in Tsarist Russia between 1905-1908 when a wave of anti-Semitism swept across the country and the annexed country of Ukraine.

The story is about a peasant, Yakow Bok - The Fixer, who is wrongly accused of a crime simpl
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fictions
POGROM is the word which can give readers an idea of what this book is all about. This means a planned killing of large numbers of people, especially Jews, usually done for reasons of race or religion. In other words, it is synonymous with MASSACRE. The book, therefore, deals with anti-Semitism during Tsarist Russia beyond my knowledge of World History.

This book breaks my heart and makes me feel for the protagonist, Yakov Bok, a Jewish fixer by trade, who dreamed to make something of himself by
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
I have no idea how to rate this book. I think the writing is fantastic, but the contents are really dark and depressing.
Kieran Archer
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Being born a Jew meant being vulnerable to history, including its worst errors. [...] The involvement was, in a way of speaking, impersonal, but the effect, his misery and suffering, were not. The suffering was personal, painful, and possibly endless."

Based on the trial of Mendel Beilis, Malamud's harrowing novel The Fixer is parable of suffering and ultimately the redemption that such suffering can bring for mental freedom. It is considered atypical of Malamud's work as it is both a direct nar
Yair Ben-Zvi
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Of all the novels I've read in the last few years, the ones that could be termed 'Jewish American Fiction', the one I'd say Malamud's The Fixer most resembles is Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird.

Both of the novels are written in a style so earnest and even a little antiquated that it's almost too much for their respective pages. There's a gradualness to the proceedings, an iceberg like slowness that lends both stories a heightened sense of acute dread interspersed by jarring moments of both dep
Jun 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
What a difficult book to read, and, I can only imagine, to write. We start with the injustice of poverty and lack of opportunity in the shtetl and move almost directly into a variety of unjust accusations leveled against Yakov Bok, who has become a scapegoat for all the imagined evil deeds of all the Jews in Russia.

Bok leaves the shtetl with hopes of a better life in Kiev. At first, things look up for him. Serendipity finds him a good job, and he is able to afford some books, and even put away s
Tracy Towley
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pulitzer, favorites
With the possible exception of Night by Elie Wiesel, The Fixer is the most powerful and affecting book I've ever read.

It tells the story of a Jew living in Russia ~1920. The Fixer is a man who has grown up in the Jewish ghetto and moves into the city of Kiev in an attempt to make a better life for himself.

He gets a job and all is going well until he runs across a man who is passed out, drunk, in the street. After he helps him to his home, the grateful man offers him a well paying job in his ware
May 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
I bought this book in college and it's been sitting on my shelf unopened until last week. This novel was written well, and it was based on a true incident where a Jewish man was tried and convicted of murdering a Russian boy who was actually killed by his own mother. It was set in Russia during the reign of the last zsar (1905-ish), at a time of intense anti-semitic hatred--it reminded me of Fiddler on the Roof, but I haven't checked to see if it's the same time. Yakov is an ironic Christ figure ...more
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer, russia
This was not a happy or uplifting book, which left me hungering for one that was, just to course-correct. I would always read more than I'd intended to, and that must, in a hard book, be an indicator of quality. I wouldn't have guessed a novel mostly about a man held in solitary confinement could be a page turner. I think this might be a good book for high schoolers to read, though they would probably hate it, to get them to think about prejudice and fairness, even the judicial system or fate. I ...more
4.5 stars. A very well written, depressing, powerful story about a 30 year old jew, Yakov Bok, a handyman, who is imprisoned in Kiev, Russia, prior to World War I, accused of murdering a young boy. The descriptions of prison life are harrowing. Yakov, an ordinary harmless man who believes in justice, has his mind and body sorely tested. The language is clear and concise and reads a little like Chekhov story. A thought provoking, interesting story.
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Bernard Malamud was an author of novels and short stories. Along with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, he was one of the great American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel, The Natural, was adapted into a 1984 film starring Robert Redford. His 1966 novel The Fixer, about antisemitism in Tsarist Russia, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
“Where to look if you've lost your mind?” 201 likes
“There are no wrong books. What's wrong is the fear of them.” 16 likes
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