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Focus

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  704 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Written in 1945, Focus was Arthur Miller's first novel and one of the first books to directly confront American anti-Semitism. It remains as chilling and incisive today as it was at the time of its controversial debut. As World War II draws to a close, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Brooklyn, New York. Here, Newman, an American of English descent, floats through a worl ...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 1945)
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Adam
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: usa
I had already seen and enjoyed a number of plays written by Arthur Miller when I came across a copy of “Focus”. I opened it thinking that it would be another of his plays, but was surprised to find that it is a full-length novel. It was first published during the Second World War in 1945. My copy (Penguin Modern Classics edition, 1986) contained an interesting introduction that Miller wrote over 40 years later, containing his explanation of Anti-Semitism.

The hero, Lawrence Newman, lives in a row
...more
Devi
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heftiges Buch ... und zeitlos.
Mariafrancesca di natura viperesca
Arthur batte Ferdinand 10 a 0

Potrei lisciare il pelo ai miei quattro lettori su raccomandazione ( in realtà lo sto facendo) raccontando di averlo scovato intonso tra i libri trasportati in campagna alla rinfusa: intonso e con un anobino vivo e vegeto che vi passeggiava sopra.

N. 52 della primavera del 1966. Sicuramente comprato sull’onda emotiva del film di Visconti di qualche anno prima trasmesso in tv; messo da parte per impegni scolastici ( esami di V ginnasio) prima e per pregiudizi mutuati
...more
Steven  Godin
A chilling study into the rise of anti-Semitism during the closing stages of the second world war that centres on Mr Newman a personnel manager living with his mother who on a regular basis witnesses the abuse of his neighbours and locals who are of different race and culture but chooses to turn a blind eye and just get on with his life. But after he starts wearing glasses he is mistaken for a Jew and persecuted, so begins internally to question what drives ordinary people to act this way and ho ...more
Melissa
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Just who is the main character in Arthur Miller's Focus? Is is Mr. Newman or Mr. Finklestein? Only if the reader makes Mr. Finklestein the main character can you actually see that Arthur Miller thought anti-Semitism to be wrong. I humbly feel that the real focus of Focus is the persecution of Mr. Finklestein for nothing more than being "Jewish". I want to call it shocking how anti-Semitic almost the whole cast of characters (even Mr. Newman) are but the real truth is that I know that religious, ...more
Ian Russell
May 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: marginal bigots, dyed-in-the-wool bigots, any bigots, anyone at all.
Man, this book opened my eyes to a piece of American history I had no idea happened. A short-sighted man, a gentile, avoids wearing glasses because they accentuate those features of his that bring to mind the stereotypical face of a jew. A dangerous image at a time when America is going through a nasty phase of anti-semitism, looking to blame the jews for all their problems; the economy, the war, the perceived decline in their neighbourhoods. When his eyesight gets so poor it noticably affects h ...more
Jack
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bold and powerful attack on the wartime anti-Semitism prevalent in America prior to the revelation of the full extent of the holocaust's horrors. Written with wit and Orwellian simplicity, Miller shows the supposed evils of the semitic character to be a mere reflection of the suspicions a collective with an identity (in this case, the good Christian folk of America) would like to express towards all humans, their distrustworthy selves included, projected onto an "other". Penned by a man better ...more
Arjadi
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it
1945 novel focusing on one man's response to anti-Semitism ... after a new pair of eyeglasses makes him "look like a Jew." A bit dated but still powerful and provocative. Ignorance and hatred of "the other" is sadly timeless.
Richie
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book exposes the reality of evil people that exists in this world who hate other people simply because of appearance, race, religion and stature in life.
Monique Gerke
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"O que o senhor vê que o deixa tão louco quando olha para mim?" (Pag. 208)
. .
A história se passa em New York, perto do fim da segunda guerra. O clima é extremamente hostil para os judeus, seja pela guerra (muitos os consideravam os causadores dela, logo, culpados), mas principalmente pelo preconceito formado. O personagem, Lawrence Newman, não é propriamente um antisemita, mas ignora o tratamento rude, hostil e violento que é destinado aos judeus no meio em que vive...isso, até ele precisar usa
...more
Barbara
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's an important book and shows the insidiousness of anti-Semitism, but it's just SO SLOW. Maybe that's what it takes for someone to begin to question their prejudices, but it just felt so formal, even stiff (which was mostly due to the main character).
Creolecat
This book should be on high school required reading lists.
Conny
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics-fiction
Ein amerikanischer Angestellter benötigt eine Brille und wird damit für sein Umfeld plötzlich zu einem Juden. Und er wird auch entsprechend behandelt. Eine Geschichte über Rassismus und Vorurteile und darüber, wie sich der Blick verändert, wenn man plötzlich auf der anderen Seite steht.
David
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not often I give five stars, but this had to have them. I picked up on the book while reading Roth's 'I Married a Communist', the latter's books being in part about being Jewish in America. The treatment of that subject here is much more brutal and I compare it with Marge Piercy's 'Gone to Soldiers'. The writing is hard and effective, being of the highest quality with few words wasted; as one would expect of a playwright, the dialogue is particularly good.

The book's principal character, Mr
...more
precaf
Sep 11, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a remarkable book for 1945. And I love Miller's plays. However, there is a clumsiness to the prose, particularly before the story of Itzak in Poland. After that the story recovers and there is a stronger, more confident, voice and it is tighter and faster paced, particularly after Newman and his wife see the war movie. Still, the premise of the glasses is a bit contrived, and Newman's marriage to Gertrude adds little to the plot except as a mechanism for her to inform him of who and wha ...more
Madhuri
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america
Though written in 1945, Focus is a book that is very contemporary. Since 2001, the prejudices in modern world have become more pronounced, and tolerance to other 'ways of life' significantly diminished. Hence, a book written about a man who passively indulges in these prejudices until he falls on the other side of the line of favor is very relavant reading. Once faced with such prejudices, the man realizes how much of his anti-semitism was based on mere perception and had not been reconciled wit ...more
Lalit Jindal
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Brilliant psychological look into the mind of a bigot! The despicable things, people are ready to do, just to be “in” the club. But when a pair of spectacles turned Newman into a Jew in eyes of the world, he started to realize how arbitrary the rules of being “in” and “out” are.
"On that street," the policeman said once more. "How many of you people live there? "
"well!," said Newman, wetting his lips . . . and stopped.
The policeman waited for the information, looking up at him. Mr. Newman sear
...more
Giovanna
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stati-uniti
Un uomo ben inquadrato nella società in cui vive,(la New York,l'America del fine guerra),vittima degli stessi pregiudizi e degli stessi luoghi comuni:la razza,la religione,il colore della pelle,la nazionalità.Quando all'improvviso,a causa di una piccola modifica che egli è costretto a fare al proprio aspetto (portare gli occhiali) la sua vita cambia radicalmente.All'improvviso e gli sembra un ebreo.E,nel clima di forte antisemitismo che lo circonda,egli si accorge di come cocciutamente,inesorabi ...more
Danielle
I really don't know how to explain my feelings on this book. It was a good book, technically. It was well written. But here's the thing: I didnt enjoy it in the slightest. At all. I was so relieved to reach the final page. And for a few reasons. One being the plot. I know there was a lot more to this story than a man who was percieved as being Jewish because he wore glasses. But I couldn't get past it. I realize at the time, this actually happened. But reading this as a young adult in 2012, it j ...more
Lance Eaton
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, reviewed-books
I came across this novel in a used bookstore and thought the premise sounded fascinating, especially since I've been a fan of Miller's dramatic works. The story follows Lawrence Newman after he awakes in the middle of the night to hearing a screaming woman being assaulted. But since the woman is a minority, he largely seems to pay it no mind. The bachelor enjoys a home in a white Christian neighborhood and works in New York City and is largely successful until his eyesight gets the best of him a ...more
James
Oct 14, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is a really fantastic and true to life novel and also the only novel Arthur Miller ever wrote. It tells the story of time in American history flooded with anti-semitism and too close to our own time to feel like the racism is fully behind us. Newman, a man living in post World War II Brooklyn, holds the same level of anti-semitism that is brewing in the neighborhoods around him. He has gone about apathetic to his ignornant bigoting until his eyesight forces him to get glasses that cause him ...more
Ali
May 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-literature
این تنها رمان میللر است که من می شناسم. قصه به راستی شیرین است اگرچه مورد استقبال بسیاری از منتقدان قرار نگرفته و تعداد کمی به آن اشاره کرده اند ولی وقتی در پایان جنگ منتشر شد، مورد استقبال قرار گرفت. مردی که یهودی نیست اما شبیه یهودی هاست و به همین جهت همه جا دچار مشکل می شود، اصرار دارد برای رها شدن از تبعیض و بدرفتاری، نگوید که یهودی نیست. به عبارتی میلی ندارد تا خود را از گناه نکرده، تبرئه کند. روزی در محله درگیر مشاجره ای می شود و در تنگنای حادثه، از یهودی بودن خود دفاع می کند. این همان رفت ...more
ReneeS
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Číst to před rokem, vnímám "Focus" úplně jinak. Ale v atmosféře, kdy se kolem mě všichni bouří, sparťani nechodí na zápasy, protože se ze vstupenky přispívá na Syrské uprchlíky, společnost se polarizuje, lidé jsou slyšet a přitom mám obavy, že toho víme příliš málo, jen si to málokdo připouští. Nemohla jsem se při čtení zbavit toho nepříjemného pocitu, že mnohé se opakuje, anebo to možná nikdy nezmizelo. Nevím, co bych si o knize myslela před rokem, dnes mě z ní mrazilo, ale nedokázala jsem ji o ...more
Ruthless Critic
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though ultimately the feeling after reading Focus is that something was missing -- something that could have earned the novel five stars and masterpiece status -- Focus is still a quality read and highly recommended. Miller is adept at creating rich characters with real personalities and inner souls, at generating suspense through foreshadow, and at involving the reader through conflict. The theme is looking the other way when your fellow man is in distress leads to yourself falling victim to th ...more
Andrea
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had not heard of this book by such a famous author. I was surprised at how relevant the writing was in terms of the underlying and sometimes overt racism that exists in areas of the United States. And it also surprised me that this racism was directed at Jews during that time. I guess many of the books I had read from that era people lived "in the own neighborhoods" so perhaps I always thought of Brooklyn as having a large Jewish population. Although some of the overt racism has changed. I am ...more
M
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very powerful and effective work, one that I hope to add to my curriculum. This novel reminded me of PLot Against America, a haunting look at how quickly sentiments can shift and become threatening with no one to defend you. THis novel has its flaws, to be sure, and Miller is certianly a playwright first and foremost, but I appreciated it a lot and would add it to my 'Holocaust with a twist' shelf, for those who appreciate the sentiment behind it but would rather not have the same images regur ...more
Tegan
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for a class, and there's a reason why my professor hadn't made it a required book in ten years. The beginning was extremely dry, and I had to force myself to get through it. It got a little more interesting in the middle, but the ending was incredibly frustrating. I get the intention of the book, but it left more questions than answers. I wouldn't be recommending this to anyone.
Paul
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Brilliant and incredibly thought provoking. It is hard to imagine the America was ever so racist and short-sighted.

I can't help but feel that it sends a message out to bigots and racists today, and should be recommended reading for all school children. It certainly wouldn't do any harm for young adults to see how damaging racism is and how can permeate the mind of even the most gentle souls.

Well worth reading.
Nickie
Aug 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
liked it, and it was quite a brave book to have written at that time. I just can't shake the feeling from learning that AM had a Down's Syndrome son with whom he refused to have much to do and (apparently) didn't even reference in his autobiog. This isn't a judgement. It's just that as the whole point of this book is to look at a person and see who they are and not what they are, it all falls a bit flat on its arse in the light of this, i think. poo.
Autumn
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This book made me look at stereotypes in a new way. It's interesting that Mr. Lawrence Newman was stereotyped as being Jewish just because of the glasses he wore. Arthur Miller wrote about a dense subject in a different way than other World War II novels were written. It was engaging and easy to follow. It's amazing that he could have written this novel in the midst of the war- given the opinions of characters on the actual pages it must not have been easy to publish it immediately following.
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Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American literature and cinema for over 61 years, writing a wide variety of plays, including celebrated plays such as The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman, which are still studied and performed worldwide. Miller was often in the public eye, most famously for refusing to g ...more
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