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The Victim by Saul Bellow
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's review
Jul 14, 2009

really liked it
Recommended to Tyler by: Author's Reputation
Recommended for: All; Fans of Americana

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 look at his actions that day much differently. Who’s right? What should be done about it now?

In a Bellow trademark, the protagonist thinks through the implications of his acts:

In Leventhal’s mind, this was not even a true injustice, for how could you call anything so haphazard an injustice? It was a shuffle, all, all accidental and haphazard. And somewhere, besides, there was a wrong emphasis.

The story totes up the moral reckoning we all do randomly each day. But the book isn’t just about that; it has plot and color as well – specifically, New-York-in-the-forties color. And in this early work, too, it’s that crisp, clean American style that sets the book apart. I have yet to read a boring page written by Saul Bellow. The Victim is an engaging novel.
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