Edward Lewis Wallant Biography
(1926–62), The Human Season, The Pawnbroker, The Tenants of Moonbloom, The Children at the Gate
American novelist, born in New Haven, Connecticut, educated at the University of Connecticut, at the Pratt Institute, and the New School for Social Research, New York. His first novel was The Human Season (1960), followed by The Pawnbroker (1961). His other two novels, The Tenants of Moonbloom (1963) and The Children at the Gate (1964), were published posthumously, following his early death from a coma brought on by a tumour. The keynote of Wallant's writing is his preoccupation with the ordinary characters who inhabit his fictional world, and whose native dignity survives their material impoverishment. Wallant's deep faith in the power of human bonding to overcome the tribulations of personal suffering is perhaps best reflected in The Pawnbroker, which was made into a highly successful film by Sidney Lumet in 1965. The eponymous pawnbroker is Solomon Nazerman, an emotionally anaesthetized survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. Against his desire for isolation from the mess of humanity, epitomized for him in the concentration camps, is his young assistant, Jesus Ortiz, whose ‘volatile innocence’ has a strange power to break through Sol's self-protective indifference to his customers. In a dramatic but unsentimental conclusion, in which Ortiz dies in the act of saving Sol's life, Sol is restored to a knowledge of human affections. The sombre mood of this novel is enlivened by the gaiety of a panoply of minor characters whose buoyant individualism attests to the power of human survival in a hostile world. The Tenants of Moonbloom reiterates these preoccupations in a more overtly comic vein.