Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Shtetl. Small Jewish village near Kiev, Russia. Before leaving for Kiev, Yakov lives his entire life here. He leaves the village because he considers it a prison, in which he is unable to survive economically. He believes that if he leaves the shtetl his luck will change. Yakov’s sentiments about the shtetl become ironic: He leaves what he thinks is a prison only to be confined to a real prison, and instead of prospering when he leaves his community, he becomes the victim of anti-Semitism.

Yakov’s cell

Yakov’s cell. Faded stucco prison building in a commercial section of Kiev, near the brickyard where Yakov works. Most of the novel takes place in Yakov’s prison cell. He spends almost three years here, where he is placed in solitary confinement and tortured. Although imprisoned and tortured, Yakov refuses to confess to a crime he did not commit. He willingly continues to be the scapegoat for the Jewish people, as he comes to understand that if he had not been accused, another Jew would have been. Despite horrendous suffering while imprisoned, he learns to appreciate his culture and fight for his people.


*Kiev (KEE-ev). Russian city (now part of Ukraine) situated on the Dnipro River in what was the Ukrainian province of Russia during the earliest period in which the novel is set; Kiev is now a city in independent Ukraine. Yakov journeys to Kiev from the shtetl....

(The entire section is 457 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

Jews were imprisoned and persecuted by Hitler's regime during World War II. At the first concentration camp, located in the Bavarian town of Dachau, more than thirty thousand people were murdered or died of starvation or disease. Published by Gale Cengage

Tsar Nicholas II
Nicholas II (1868-1918), who makes a brief appearance in Yakov's dream near the end of this novel,...

(The entire section is 1020 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

Point of View
Most of this novel is written in the third person limited point of view. This means that characters are...

(The entire section is 847 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1913: Tsar Nicholas II, political leader of Russia, follows a policy of persecuting and suppressing Jewish citizens in...

(The entire section is 373 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Conduct a trial for Yakov Bok. Elect representatives from your class to play prosecutors, defendants, and witnesses

Some people...

(The entire section is 239 words.)

Techniques / Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Fixer is modeled upon an actual case in Russian history, the infamous Mendel Beiliss trial held in 1913 after the accused had been...

(The entire section is 319 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Malamud wrote no sequels to The Fixer, even though it ends with Bok being brought to trial, not the trial itself. But critics rightly...

(The entire section is 66 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

John Frankenheimer directed the film version of The Fixer, produced by Edward Lewis and released by MGM in 1968. Dalton Trumbo wrote...

(The entire section is 125 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

The Fixer was adapted as a film by John Frankenheimer in 1969, starring Alan Bates and Dirk Bogarde. The film was released by...

(The entire section is 119 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

Austrian writer Franz Kafka's novel The Trial, first published in 1925, set the standard for novels about naive protagonists sucked into a complex, nightmarish legal system. Kafka's Joseph K. is so confused about of what he is supposed to be guilty that the term "Kafkaesque" has come to represent impersonal, irrational bureaucracy.

Malamud has described The Fixer as a folk tale. Many of his shorter works fit this description. They have been collected in The Stories of Bernard Malamud, published by Farrar Straus Giroux in 1983.

Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Polish-born Yiddish writer who won the Nobel Prize for...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)


Dorothy Seidman Bilek, "Malamud's Secular Saints and Comic Jobs," Immigrant-Survivors;...

(The entire section is 308 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Ducharme, Robert. Art and Idea in the Novels of Bernard Malamud: Toward the Fixer. The Hague: Mouton, 1974. Argues that the theme of the tension between suffering and responsibility runs through all Malamud’s work and provides a key to The Fixer.

Field, Leslie A., and Joyce W. Field, eds. Bernard Malamud: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975. Excellent choice of essays, prefaced by a revealing interview with Malamud.

Hershinow, Sheldon J. Bernard Malamud. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. Good general study of Malamud’s work, identifying his main...

(The entire section is 125 words.)