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5.0 out of 5 stars A few chaotic days in New York
It's the early 1940s in Manhattan. Asa Leventhal, who lives SoHo, finds himself pestered by a drunken freeloader. Asa just can't seem to summon the energy to shake this nuisance off, despite seeing through the man's flimsy sob story. So the parasite eases into Asa's life, approaching him on the street and in diners, turning up at his door at all hours, until the pest...
Published on 27 Nov. 2012 by Christopher H

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars depressing and unreadable
This is the first book in ages that I have not been able to finish. In fact I only got 20% in before deciding that the character was just miserable. It depressed me and I did not look forward to turning on my kindle to read it.
Published 18 months ago by M. J. Keegal


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5.0 out of 5 stars A few chaotic days in New York, 27 Nov. 2012
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Victim (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
It's the early 1940s in Manhattan. Asa Leventhal, who lives SoHo, finds himself pestered by a drunken freeloader. Asa just can't seem to summon the energy to shake this nuisance off, despite seeing through the man's flimsy sob story. So the parasite eases into Asa's life, approaching him on the street and in diners, turning up at his door at all hours, until the pest has moved into Asa's apartment, bringing his mess with him.

In the meantime Asa, who tends to brood, is going off his head with worry. And this solitary character has plenty to care about: his wife is temporarily away, his nephew is gravely ill nearby (Asa's brother is working interstate), there are frictions in the office. Its all low level domestic worries, nothing special, but Asa can't cope, especially in the oppressive heat of a New York summer. The world seems against him, or at least that is the mood that is running through his head; events are closing in over the few days in which this takes place, and Asa just wants to flee the apartment.

So the thing with the freeloader mounts up, with Asa's friends wondering what exactly is going on in Asa's head, why he cannot deal with this unwanted pest. And there is the enigma of the book's title: is it refering to the freeloader?, or to Asa?

I find this a curious, absorbing novel - the first work by Bellow I have read - and I couldn't put it down. There is no sense of doom here, no building menace, just feelings that things are out of control. But this quirky tale defies categorisation, for if the ingredients for American-Jewish urban comedy and brooding Kafkaesque tragedy are both emphatically there, it is neither of these things. (In his quirky self-absorbed ways, Asa recalls assorted characters in Coen brothers' movies)

I am most intrigued that the war is never mentioned or alluded to (the novel was written when the author was serving in the Merchant Marine, and published in 1947), although bigotry lies at the core. If he is not a brutal Nazi, the drunken parasite stupidly insists that Jews are conspiring to run business, and to derive him of employment, and a most distressed Asa cannot emotionally respond to this in-his-face vilification by an urban hypocrite. So I wonder if in a way Asa's bafflement, and the way that life has become chaotic, might obliquely mirror or signify the confused mental state of the wartime period.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Original and intense, 18 April 2015
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Leventhal is a hardworking and up-coming Jewish man who crosses paths with Albee, a man who claims superiority because he is of an old family. They are at a dinner party and Albee causally airs some anti-Semitism of the day. Later Albee loses his job at a place where Leventhal has been and Albee imagines that there is a relation. Meanwhile Leventhal works, are troubled about his brother's family, how to do the right thing, and something about his wife as well, never giving a thought to Albee. One day Albee shows up, almost a tramp, claiming that Leventhal has ruined his life and then moves into his apartment.

As the story unfolds we learn that Leventhal, being an introspective man of sorts, can't help but see some truth in the wild allegations of the weak and self-pitying Albee. And that is were it gets interesting. Leventhal goes through a process; reworking his perception of events and the truth, and by doing so he changes perspective and self-understanding. He doesn't do so willingly but he can't help it, it happens, basically because he speculates and is a humanist at heart.

It is Saul Bellow's second novel and his protagonist is already typical of what is to come; a gritty, brainy, hearty, and somewhat neurotic Jewish type. The fact that he is Jew in a society in which anti-Semitism was still wide-spread, is the revolving point of the story.

It is original, intense and very readable.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exploration of victimhood. Almost a page-turner, and definitely worth reading, 8 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Victim (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Victim's protagonist Leventhal, is a man victimised by life. His upbringing and Jewish background, apparently natural precursors to his mentality. Faced with the accusation by Allbee that he is to blame for this man's slide into iniquity, the confidence of Leventhal's initial revolt is later shaken by the nature of his mentality.

Saul Bellow's novel explores victimhood. The victimhood of an individual and the victimhood of a culture, and the difficulties that such contrary fatalism may bring, both in the sense of expectation and in the response of others. Or indeed the advantages of the opposite. Leventhal is a success, but he protests a little too vehemently, and still lurks an unseen doubt that this success should have ever been so. Allbee? well, read the story.

Whilst this is performed artfully, with beautiful and philosophical prose, the story was a little too sparse for the length of the book, and dragged towards the end.

Almost a page-turner, and definitely worth reading.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars depressing and unreadable, 5 Nov. 2013
By 
M. J. Keegal "T.J. Keegal" (Hounslow) - See all my reviews
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This is the first book in ages that I have not been able to finish. In fact I only got 20% in before deciding that the character was just miserable. It depressed me and I did not look forward to turning on my kindle to read it.
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The Victim (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Victim (Penguin Modern Classics) by Saul Bellow (Paperback - 31 Jan. 2008)
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