Based on the story of a Russian Jew, Mendel Beiless, who was tried and acquitted in czarist Russia for the ritual murder of a Christian child, The Fixer artistically re-creates that history. It also represents, in its theme, persecution in general. Bernard Malamud creates in this novel a story like a parable, similar in theme and style to his other works, that recounts the protagonist’s spiritual growth and affirms personal dignity and moral integrity even in a world that seems incomprehensible. Yakov Bok, the hero, a Jew, comes to define himself, value suffering, and feel most free when most confined.
Yakov, a fixer or handyman, has had bad luck. With little work in his Jewish village and a wife first disappointing him in being childless then deserting him, he feels himself a prisoner of his circumstances. He sets off for Kiev, a city known for its anti-Semitism, in hopes of changing his life. In Kiev, Yakov, finding no work in the Jewish sector, begins looking outside the ghetto, which is illegal. Coming upon a drunken man who is lying unconscious in the street, Yakov helps the drunk, although Yakov recognizes him as an anti-Semite. To reward Yakov, the man offers him a job, which Yakov accepts with misgivings because it is outside the ghetto. One day Yakov reads in the paper of the ritual murder of a Christian child. The next day he is accused of the murder and put in prison. He is held for thirty months before being brought to trial....
(The entire section is 462 words.)