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Fixer, The

shtetl

yakov arrest lebedev russian

a novel by Bernard Malamud, published in 1967 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Malamud based his fiction on the arrest of Mendel Beiliss in 1911, on a charge of murdering a Russian boy. The novel is set in Tsarist Russia, and focuses on the life of a simple non-religious Jew, Yakov Bok, a handyman (or ‘fixer’). He attempts to escape the shtetl, his Jewishness, and an unfaithful wife, and leaves for Kiev. There he rescues a man called Lebedev from a physical seizure and is rewarded with employment as an accountant at Lebedev's brickworks. Yakov is discovered living in a Christian area, and accused of the ritual murder of a Gentile child. He has been used as a scapegoat by officials in want of an excuse to start a pogrom. The book charts Yakov's changing emotions and perceptions, and the development of his Jewish and humanitarian consciousness that has resulted from his unjust arrest, prosecution, and torture in a Russian prison, and we are left with Yakov on his way to trial.

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