I've been reading a lot of post-war Jewish-American authors (Bellow, Mailer, Roth) and hadn't really been all that impressed with Malamud until this book, which won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. It is so much better and more powerful than his other books that it almost feels like the work of another writer. Set in Russia in the early 1900s, it's the story of a poor Jewish handyman (a fixer) whose wife has left him so he ventures to Kiev, where he finds work but is soon falsely accused of a vicious murder and imprisoned. The situation is a little like Kafka, but rooted in the brutality of history and the virulent anti-Semitism of the period. Malamud creates enormous sympathy for his unfortunate protagonist as well as stirring up anger at the staggering injustice. It's one of the most moving and harrowing books I've ever read about Jewish identity and anti-Semitism.
I loved this book - the story was fascinating as well as infuriating. The injustice described is horrifying, but the the main character is absolutely inspiring and courageous.
1967 National Book Award - Fiction
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