Philosophy, freedom, and Malamud’s Fixer

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Philosophy for change

‘If I have any philosophy’, said Yakov Bok, ‘it is that life could be better than it is’. Yakov (the maligned hero of Bernard Malamud’s novel, The Fixer (1966)) was a poor handyman, or ‘fixer’, who lived in a small Jewish village in pre-revolutionary Russia. When his wife left him for a stranger, he decided he was ready for change. Yakov packed up his tools and set out for Kiev to start anew. He threw his religious items into a river on the way to the city. He abandoned his name and the final evidence of his origin just as quickly when offered a job by a wealthy anti-Semite in a part of town restricted to Jews.

But the past has a way of catching up with us. One day a boy was found murdered and drained of blood in a cave near Yakov’s factory. When, in the course of…

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