The Fixer: Part VIII - Page 1,2,3,4

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1. Pages 261-269

Yakov hopes that Shmuel’s visit means that someone will now come to help him. However, his luck does not change. Instead, he is told that someone has informed on Zhitnyak for giving Yakov the New Testament, and when Zhitnyak was arrested, he also confessed to letting Shmuel in to see Yakov. As punishment, Yakov is chained to the wall, then chained to his bed at night. A new guard, Berezhinsky, takes Zhitnyak’s place and takes pleasure in pointing his gun at Yakov. Yakov is now searched six times a day, although he is chained all the time. Yakov knows they do this to humiliate him; he hates the searches more than anything else that is done to him. He spends yet another winter in prison; keeping warm is difficult when the coat does not fit over his manacles. Yakov nearly freezes to death. He has nothing to occupy his time but thinking. In retrospect, Yakov looks back at his first year in prison fondly. He thinks about how to commit suicide and becomes obsessed with trying to make them kill him so that they will be the guilty ones. They will never have been able to prove he was guilty of killing Zhenia.

2. Pages 269-276

Kogin confesses his troubles to Yakov. His son has murdered a man during a house robbery and is now being sent to Siberia. His daughter got pregnant. He complains that his love of his children has amounted to nothing. Kogin confesses that he feels sympathy for Yakov.

Yakov dreams of a coffin with Shmuel in it, and he is so upset at this vision that he says, “‘Live, Shmuel, live. Let me die for you.’” Then he realizes with sudden clarity that if he dies in prison, his death might bring about a pogrom against the Jews. The Russians, deprived of their scapegoat, might go after innocent Jews. Yakov realizes what his dream means: he must stay alive, even if he suffers, to protect Shmuel and the other Jews. His death might make matters worse for Jews. He is a poor man, a fixer, yet he is a Jew, and for that he carries the hatred of all of Russia.


In this section, Yakov reaches a turning point. All along, his imprisonment has seemed pointless because he was a nobody, just a poor fixer. Why should they have chosen him to accuse? He was not even a devout Jew. But he now realizes that he has merely been a convenient scapegoat, a symbol of all of the Jews. He cannot escape his heritage, nor can he keep thinking only of himself. The injustice he has suffered threatens a whole race of people, a race for which he has been chosen as symbol, a symbol of suffering for the Jews and a symbol of evil for the Christians. Suddenly, Yakov sees a purpose that he can embrace; he can save people—his people—by staying alive. His suffering suddenly has meaning.

3. Pages 276-282

The warden brings Yakov his indictment at last. Yakov is allowed to read it, finding that new (and manufactured) details have been included. Zhenia’s wounds now number forty-five. He reads with interest that Marfa Golov had been arrested and thoroughly questioned on suspicion of murdering her own son, but she was let go. He reads all the suspicions against himself: he was a Jew living illegally in the Lukianovsky District, he attempted to rape Zina, he stole from the brickworks, he chased children with a knife, he possessed a bag of tools and a bloody rag. According to Marfa, he also molested Zhenia. Others testify that they saw him carrying a body into his rooms. There is also the accusation that he attempted to bribe people from jail using Gronfein and others.

Yakov finds it interesting that the original charge of ritual murder is missing from the indictment. “They can’t prove a thing, he thought, that’s why they’ve kept me in solitary imprisonment for almost two years.” He realizes that the indictment is so weak that they will likely never bring him to trial, always looking for more evidence to convict him.

4. Pages 282-292

One day, Raisl comes to see him. At first, he is overwhelmed with anger at her, remembering what she had done to him and how her desertion of him set in motion all his misfortunes. She meets his accusations with some of her own: Yakov was not a good husband to her. She asks him to forget the past. She says she was allowed to see him if she would bring him a paper to sign confessing his guilt.

Raisl weeps, and finally Yakov must admit to her that he blames himself, too, for their disastrous marriage. She says that she bore a child by the man she ran away with, and since then she has been shunned by the village because of the child and because she is blamed for what happened to Yakov. She was not, therefore, barren, as Yakov thought she was; the problem was, apparently, with Yakov. She begs Yakov to claim the child as his own so life will be better for her and the boy. She tells him that Shmuel is dying, and then she will have no protection at all. Yakov agrees to write down that the child is his. He does so on the envelope that contains the confession he is supposed to sign. On the confession he writes “‘Every word is a lie.’”


Yakov has moved to a spiritually higher plain, now. He is able not only to forgive Raisl, but to acknowledge that his actions made her suffer. He takes responsibility for the chain of events that set off his destruction, beginning with shunning Raisl. The child, although not his own, should not also suffer for Yakov’s actions. Again, Yakov’s life has a purpose now: he can fix something. He is a fixer, not of objects, but of lives. 

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