- Series: Harvest/HBJ Book
- Paperback: 279 pages
- Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; 1st edition (October 9, 1978)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156714221
- ISBN-13: 978-0156714228
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 64 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Pawnbroker Paperback – October 9, 1978
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[R]eminiscent of Dostoevski....on every count [The Pawnbroker] deserves the attention of every serious reader.” Thomas Lask, The New York Times
Wallant has...written an honest and moving book about human experience at its most dismal.” R. D. Spector, New York Herald Tribune
Edward Lewis Wallant is a gifted writer who probes with a kind of troubled tenderness into pools of human darkness.” David Boroff, Saturday Review
Sol Nazerman, the erudite Shylock of Harlem, is a creature of fasicnating complexity....he is that literary raritythe character whose sorrows seem as real as the reader’s own.” TIME magazine
Well written and painfully memorable.” George Adelman, Library Journal
"[T]he book gains energy from its plot, which involves a mobster and a planned robbery that puts Sol in an awful position that Wallant thoughtfully interrogates throughout: how do you trustfully navigate the world when you’ve experienced the worst that people are capable of?" Kirkus Reviews
No contemporary novelist was more gifted in the sheer grace of constructing a novel....” Charles Alva Hoyt
an American naturalist in the tradition of Dreiser and Norris....” Robert W. Lewis
We don’t need to imagine how shocking The Pawnbroker must have been to readers in the early 1960s because it is still that shocking to us. Without a trace of sentimentality, Edward Lewis Wallant wrote the Great American Novel of Redemption. Before anyone else, he showed us that only by recognizing in others the face of human suffering could the individual survivorwhether male or female, Jewish, black, or Puerto Ricantranscend his or her inheritance of trauma and pain." Eileen Pollack, author of In the Mouth and Breaking and Entering
"Post-Holocaust novel par excellence. Timeless and well ahead of its time. Lose yourself in Wallant's lyrically imbued world of traumatic memories and its collision with contemporary life." Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible
About the Author
Edward Lewis Wallant (1926-1962) was an American writer. During his life he published the novels The Human Season (1960) and The Pawnbroker (1961). Wallant - a devoted family man with much potential - died of an aneurysm at the age of 36. Two of his novels were published posthumously - The Tenants of Moonbloom (1963) and The Children at the Gate (1964). Wallant began to write professionally aged thirty. He had served in the Second World War, and had attended art school in New York. He had spent some time as an advertising art director in the city. Wallant has an elegant and fluid writing style - his books are written in rich, free-flowing prose. Wallant has been compared to other Jewish American writers such as Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth. He was survived by his wife Joyce, who passed away in 1991; is survived by his son Scott, daughters Leslie and Kim, grandchildren Nina, Steve, Nora, Eddie, Jon, Esme and Ruthie.
Top customer reviews
With the Holocaust 16 years prior Wallant uses the horrors of the experience to highlight the continuation of the destruction. 6 million Jews were killed and millions who survived had their lives so distorted that one realizes that the devastation was even greater.
Sol Nazerman, the pawnbroker, is himself a "broken" spirit and his world of trading on the sadness and need of others who are destroyed extends his pain. His assistant Jesus Oritz is a black young man who is intent on learning the tricks of the trade from the Jew. He also eventually "saves" Sol from a death in which he, Jesus, was a prime planner. Each character is fully described and each is woven into the torn fabric of Sol's existence or subsistence.
Little of the story seems dated due the power of Wallant's writing.
"If our sanctified remembering has nothing to do with remembering people’s lives, then the next logical assumption would be that we are meant to remember their revolting deaths—and that exposing ourselves to the degradation these people suffered will somehow sensitize us to such suffering in the future."
"Trauma never disappears, but its endurance is a reminder of what else can endure."
"’You have no land to grow food on, no land on which to hunt, not enough time in one place to have a geography or an army or a land-myth. Only you have a little brain in your head, and this bearded legend to sustain you and convince you that there is something special about you, even in your poverty. But this little brain, that is the real key. With it you obtain a small piece of cloth...You take this cloth and cut it in two and sell the two pieces for a penny more than you paid for the one. With this money, you buy a slightly larger piece of cloth...You repeat this process over and over for approximately twenty centuries. And then, voila, you have a mercantile heritage, you are known as a merchant, a man with secret resources, usurer, pawnbroker, witch, and what have you....’"
"’These here suits, Sol,’ he began, and then stared in puzzlement at the crudely tattooed numbers on his employer’s thick, hairless arm. ‘Hey, what kind of tattoo you call that?’ he asked. ‘It’s a secret society I belong to,’ Sol answered"
"He did not grieve or mourn them, because he had been cauterized of all abstract things. Reality consisted of the world within one’s sight and smell and hearing. He commemorated nothing; it was the secret of his survival."
"Take, do, act! Life is the here and now. Focus on what is before you. Bear down, push away whoever impedes you. Take what you need; money, relief, peace."
“Say I am like their priest. Yes, do not be shocked, I am. They get as much from me as they do from their churches. They bring me their troubles in the shapes of old table radios and watches and stolen typewriters and gold-plated crucifixes and half-paid-for cameras. And I, I give them absolution in hard cash."
"His memory was screened off, his hopes had long ago been amputated. Each sense was allowed only a moment’s play as he walked down the motley avenue, past a church that looked like an old theater and promised Redemption in hand lettering, past a butcher shop whose sign was in Spanish and whose screen door was blanketed with"
"So he was caught in the flow of them as he tried to find the wellspring of his own tears. Until he realized he was crying for all his dead now, that all the dammed-up weeping had been released by the loss of one irreplaceable Negro who had been his assistant and who had tried to kill him but who had ended by saving him."
"’Rest in peace, Ortiz, Mendel, Rubin, Ruth, Naomi, David . . . rest in peace,’ he said, still crying a little, but mostly for himself."
The survivor's heartache, it's numbing immenseness of pain, The author captured beautifully. Thank you,.
This is such a work.
No doubt it would offend some, but the integrity of this novel is breathtaking.
If only every book I read could be this good.
It is revealed that his hatred was shaped by his holocaust experiences and his attempts to distance himself from all humanity. Yet his hatred and revulsion extends to himself through the anger at his powerlessness to save his wife and children during the war and the bitterness at his loss.
Much of the story is about Sol's inability to cope alone with his sufferings yet his pain and bitterness have rendered him incapable of closeness with or affection for anyone. He cannot share his feelings with others and becomes locked in an internal cycle of suffering, avoidance, misery, and lack of empathy for the suffering of others.
Through his relationship with his assistant, Jesus Ortiz, the gentle intrusion of Miss Birchfield, and tragic circumstances that surround the anniversary of the death of his family in the concentration camp approaches force Sol to begin to feel again and there is hope that he will begin to heal.