Vishal's Reviews > The Fixer

The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
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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 out, it was history that counted-the world’s bad memory. It remembered the wrong things. So for a Jew it was the same wherever he went, he carried a remembered pack on his back-a condition of servitude, diminished opportunity, vulnerability'.

How much worse is it, then, when you are persecuted for the belief you lost, or never had in the first place? This is Yakov’s major dilemma, as a man struggling for meaning outside the realms of religion.

The Fixer is one of those thoroughly enjoyable books that blends history, philosophy (the book is a vehicle for Spinoza’s core beliefs, such as the State’s responsibility for the peace and security of its people, and God as the impersonal force of Nature), and although there are parts where the plot doesn’t move much, you are so tied to the main character’s fate that this book just zips along. Typical of Malamud, he draws the full spectrum of his character; no one is strictly a hero, especially when one is only on the road to redemption.

The only complaint I’d have against this book is that there were times when Yakov’s self-pitying grates; but when the weight of historical fallacy is enforced by millions against a few, the choices between extreme suffering and death are but few.

This is a gripping master class from one of those writers who effortlessly wins your heart, mind and soul.
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Reading Progress

April 15, 2015 – Shelved
April 15, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
October 19, 2015 – Started Reading
October 21, 2015 –
page 134
40.0% "This book proves to me that I'd rather feel sad and angry than feel nothing at all..."
October 25, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena I'd never heard of this book before. Great review, and thanks for the recommendation:)


message 2: by Himanshu (new) - added it

Himanshu Your review gives out just the right details to pique one's curiosity, Vishal. Thanks for bringing this to my notice.


message 3: by Vishal (last edited Oct 26, 2015 01:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vishal Rowena wrote: "I'd never heard of this book before. Great review, and thanks for the recommendation:)"

Thank you Rowena, and you're welcome :-) This is the 3rd book out of the last 5 I've read that centered around life in a Russian prison, and Malamud managed to stand tall (maybe taller!) against both Solzhenitsyn and Dostoyevsky, which is saying a lot!

Malamud grows on me with every novel. I need to check out his short stories, which are supposedly great.


Vishal Himanshu wrote: "Your review gives out just the right details to pique one's curiosity, Vishal. Thanks for bringing this to my notice."

You're welcome Himanshu, and I'm sure you'll thank me after reading it as well! It's one of those books that grips you and haunts your conscience even after you've read the last sentence.


message 5: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena Vishal wrote: "Rowena wrote: "I'd never heard of this book before. Great review, and thanks for the recommendation:)"

Thank you Rowena, and you're welcome :-) This is the 3rd book out of the last 5 I've read tha..."


Wow, that does say a whole lot! By the way, have you read Kolyma Tales about the Siberian Gulag?


Vishal Rowena wrote: "Vishal wrote: "Rowena wrote: "I'd never heard of this book before. Great review, and thanks for the recommendation:)"

Thank you Rowena, and you're welcome :-) This is the 3rd book out of the last ..."


I looked it up and saw it's already on my 'Want to Read' list :-) And yes, I am definitely drawn to books with a fair share of melancholia!


message 7: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena Oh great! I love me some melancholy too and very few do it better than the Russians:)


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