Places: The Fixer

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1966

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical realism

Time of work: Shortly before World War I

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedShtetl

Shtetl. Fixer, TheSmall 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. Although little of the action of the novel occurs in Kiev, this broader setting is important because it provides historical accuracy to events that occur to Yakov, a fictional character based on Mendel Beilis, who was arrested in Kiev in 1911 for a crime similar to the one Yakov is accused of committing. The novel portrays a specific historical time in which Russia attempted to extinguish its Jewish population. The setting also accurately demonstrates some of the unscrupulous tactics Russian czars used for political gain prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917.


*Lukianovsky. District of Kiev that Jews are not allowed to enter. The brickyard where Yakov works for Nikolai Maximovitch Lebedev is located in Lukianovsky. Yakov at first declines the offer to work but Nikolai persuades him to accept and offers him a place to stay in the brickyard. Yakov is unable to decline Nikolai’s offer without admitting that he is a Jew, a fact he has hidden from Nikolai, who is an admitted anti-Semitic. Living and working in Lukianovsky plagues Yakov with fear, worry, and guilt. Although Yakov feels like a traitor, he soothes his conscience by determining to make some money and leave. The body of the boy Yakov is accused of murdering is found in a cave near the brickyard in Lukianovsky.

BibliographyDucharme, 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 themes.Salzberg, Joel. Bernard Malamud. A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985. A comprehensive listing of books, articles, and reviews of Malamud’s writings, with a brief summary of the content of each item.
Categories: Places