About The Pawnbroker
For most of us, remembering the Holocaust requires effort; we listen to stories, watch films, read histories. But the people who came to be called “survivors” could not avoid their memories. Sol Nazerman, protagonist of Edward Lewis Wallant’s The Pawnbroker, is one such sufferer.
At 45, Nazerman, who survived Bergen-Belsen although his wife and children did not, runs a Harlem pawnshop. But the operation is only a front for a gangster who pays Nazerman a comfortable salary for his services. Nazerman’s dreams are haunted by visions of his past tortures. (Dramatizations of these scenes in Sidney Lumet’s 1964 film version are famous for being the first time the extermination camps were depicted in a Hollywood movie.)
Remarkable for its attempts to dramatize the aftereffects of the Holocaust, The Pawnbroker is likewise valuable as an exploration of the fraught relationships between Jews and other American minority groups.
Sol Nazerman is a victim of the Holocaust, as you become familiar with Sol you understand he is far from the label of survivor. He’s best described as a dead man walking, an automaton of trauma. Broken from all he has endured and lost, impacting his life greatly, the mental and emotional damage unrepairable. An affecting story of tremendous loss, family, sacrifice. A story of picking up the pieces when every thing has been stolen from you. Well written, a harsh glimpse into the lasting effects of those enduring the unthinkable of the Holocaust.
I enjoyed the story, the portrayal of Sol is well done. I’m not sure how I felt about the ending, one big allegory leaving me ambiguous. The ending was predictable to a degree yet it caught me somewhat off guard. I found it interesting, halting, yet completely unsure on my final verdict.
Great story, lovely writing perfect counterbalance of fiction and literature.
About Edward Lewis Wallant
Wallant began to write professionally at age twenty nine. He had served in the Second World War as a gunner’s mate. He attended the University of Connecticut and graduated from Pratt Institute and studied writing at The New School in New York. While he worked as an advertising art director, Wallant wrote at night.
Wallant died of an aneurysm at the age of 36.
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The Pawnbroker by Edward Lewis Wallant, published November 10th 2015 by Fig Tree Books (first published 1961)