Bernard Malamud – The Fixer

41aanv0D5vLWith this book, I am now over the 50% completed mark for Books Read. For now my pages completed lacks behind considerably as I have read most of the shortest books on the list which is troubling for the completion of this project. It took me until I was over twenty novels in to develop the statistics aspect of the project, and that is concerning because I didn’t keep track of the page lengths I was dealing with and that led to me working against myself in finishing this project quickly. The longer the book, especially some of the ones I am not excited about reading, the harder it is for me in my reading disposition to finish. I read slowly, as has been exhaustively noted here, and the longer the book the slower I work. This fact results in fewer finishes and more frustration with the duration of this project. But now is a time for celebration though, that I have turned a corner and have now reached that 50% mark that which I had previously thought unachievable for a long time.

So now on to Malamud’s winner, The Fixer. The first thing that surprised me about this book was that it is the only Pulizter winner that I have read so far that has been based entirely outside of America. There are some winner that the main characters are from other countries, and travel out of the US. But Malamud sets this novel in Pre-Revolution Russia, specifically in Kiev, what we now call Ukraine. Malamud’s main character Yakov Bok is a Jewish peasant from a Russian community to house peasant, and he travels to Kiev for work. There is entrapped for a murder he didn’t commit, and forced into prison to live out a sentence-less sentence until he arrives for his trial. He suffers through 2 and a half years in prison unsure of his fate. Knowing the evidence against him is false, he has hope that truth will prevail. Bok knows the time and place he lives in, and the merciless slaughter of Jews in recent years, killing his parents actually and making him out to be an orphan, decidedly goes against his notion of a fair trial. So Bok sits. Bok goes insane. Bok freezes and eats filth and suffers for seemingly no reason at all other than the unbridled hate and superstition of the Russian people.

Malamud is a superb writer. Malamud writes with power as if this happened to him and he is retelling it to you through Bok. I find his voice to be true and transparent. There is nothing fabricated in his environment down to the stove in the room, what the walls look like. What cockroach ridden cabbage soup tastes like. It is a perfect setting. You believe everything he is telling you and you look for clues, the seams in his descriptions that might betray him but there are none there. Malamud keeps you reeling from his powerful prose and exceptional pacing. This is a titan work of American fiction. Everyone should read this book, and everyone no matter what stripe or state you are in will enjoy it thoroughly. Malamud addresses so so much in this book, Jewish/Christian conflict which spill into the base nature of all people for all time. It is an amazing feat that Malamud winds you through this novel. Forcing you to answer his questions. What is truth? What is duty? What would you do the wiser now for having read this work? Malamud is a writer amongst writer.

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