"I'm Yakov Fixer... I'm the kind of man who finds it perilous to be alive." He is childless, as the Talmud said, alive but dead, and deserted by his wife. He leaves his native shtetl for Kiev to pass for a few months as a goyim. Then he is arrested for having counterfeited a name and is later accused of killing a child in a ritual murder. This is the Russia of Nicholas the Second, the increasing irrationale of anti-Semitism, the prophetic "stink of future evil"-- and there seems to be no question that this is Malamud's strongest book. There may be more question whether Yakov is one of his "saint-schlemiehls." He's a simple man, an ignorant man, but he reads a little (Spinoza) and he thinks. Even in his outraged innocence he knows that he is a "rational being and a man must try to reason." During these long months of interrogation and internment, he develops a certain philosophy of his own even though "it's all skin and bones." But speculate as he does, protest as he does, how accept the fact that he is one of the chosen people, chosen to represent the destiny and racial guilt of the Jews? As a Job, and several of Malamud's earlier characters have been termed Jobs, he repudiates suffering and eventually his hate is stronger than his fear... Anticipating all the inevitable comparisons to which the book is equal, Malamud's Fixer, less ideological than Koestler's Darkness at Noon, less symbolic than Kafka's Trial, has elements of each but a more exposed humanity than either of them. It is a work of commanding power.