Fiction Edward Lewis Wallant The Pawnbroker

ISBN 13: 9780156714228

The Pawnbroker

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9780156714228: The Pawnbroker

Sol Nazerman survived the Holocaust. His wife and children did not -he witnessed their murder in a concentration camp. He is now a Harlem pawnbroker, emotionally dead and indifferent to the desperation around him, running his shop as a front for a racketeer. Made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Rod Steiger, this is one of the most moving pieces in modern fiction.

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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.

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His feet crunched on the hard-packed sand. On his left was the Harlem River, across the street to the right was the Community Center, and beyond was the vast, packed city. At seven thirty in the morning it was quiet for New York. In that relative silence, his footsteps made ponderous, dragging sounds that were louder and more immediate in his own ears than the chugging of the various river boats or the wakening noise of traffic a few blocks away on 125th Street.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

It could almost have been the pleasant sound of someone walking over clean white snow. But the sight of the great, bulky figure, with its puffy face, its heedless dark eyes distorted behind the thick lenses of strangely old-fashioned glasses, dispelled any thought of pleasure.

Cecil Mapp, a small, skinny Negro, sat nursing a monumental hangover on the wooden curbing that edged the river. He gazed blearily at Sol Nazerman the Pawnbroker and thought the heavy, trudging man resembled some kind of metal conveyance. Look like a tank or like that, he thought. The sight of the big white man lifted Cecil’s spirit perceptibly; the awkward caution of his walk indicated misery on a different scale from his own. For a few minutes he forgot about his furious wife, whom he would have to face that night, forgot even the anticipated misery of a whole day’s work plastering walls with shaky, unwilling hands. He was actually moved to smile as Sol Nazerman approached, and he thought gaily, That man suffer!

He waved his hand and raised his eyebrows like someone greeting a friend at a party.

“Hiya there, Mr. Nazerman. Look like it goin’ to be a real nice day, don’t it?”

“It is a day,” Sol allowed indifferently, with a slight, side-wise movement of his head. As he plodded along, Sol watched the quiet flow of the water. Ironically, he noted the river’s deceptive beauty. Despite its oil-green opacity and the indecipherable things floating on its filthy surface, somehow its insistent direction made it impressive.

He narrowed his eyes at the August morning: the tarnished gold light on receding bridges, the multi-shaped industrial buildings, and all the random gleams that bordered the river and made the view somehow reminiscent of a great and ancient European city.

No fear that he could be taken in by it; he had the battered memento of his body and his brain to protect him from illusion.

Oh yes, yes, a nice, peaceful summer day; quiet, safe, full of people going about their business in the rich, promising heat. A dozing morning in a great city. He looked idly at the intricate landscape, his eyes lidded with boredom as he walked.

Suddenly he had the sensation of being clubbed. An image was stamped behind his eyes like a bolt of pain. For an instant he moved blindly in the rosy morning, seeing a floodlit night filled with screaming. A groan escaped him, and he stretched his eyes wide. There was only the massed detail of a thousand buildings in quiet sunlight. In a minute he hardly remembered the hellish vision and sighed at just the recollection of a brief ache, his glass-covered eyes as bland and aloof as before. Another minute and he was allowing himself the usual shallow speculation on his surroundings.

What was there here, in this shabby patch on his journey to the store each morning, that eased him slightly? Just a large, sandy triangle, perhaps two blocks long, a waste that seemed to wait for some utilitarian purposes, or a spot where something had once existed, whose traces were now covered by the anonymous, thin layer of beach sand. It was a block out of his way, too. Eh, go figure the things a person reacts to! He liked to come this way, that was enough. Maybe it was the lovely scenery, the charming, lovely type of people you might see strewn along the way, like Cecil Mapp. Whatever—the dreams of the night lost their sharp edges for him at this particular distance in time from his sleep. He glanced idly at the bright-painted tugs, the weathered, broad barges carrying all manner of things. Gradually, as he walked, he drained himself of phantoms of his sleep, and the multiple tiny abrasions he got from his sister and her family lost their soreness. Perhaps, then, this brief part of his walk was a bridge between two separate atmospheres, a bridge upon which he could readjust the mantle of his impregnable scorn.

As he reached the apex of the sandy area and turned to the pavement, he allowed himself a moment’s recall of his troubled sleep. Not that he could remember what he had dreamed, but he knew the dreams were bad. For years he had experienced bad dreams from time to time, but lately they were occurring more frequently.

My age, I guess. At forty-five the nerves lose some of their elasticity, he thought. “Agh,” he said aloud, and shrugged, to throw dirt over the introspection; in the diplomatic delicacy of truce there was no sense in displaying your dead.

But when he got to the store, he could not resist a grimace at the sight of the three gilded balls hanging over the doorway. It was no more than a joke in rather poor taste that had led to this. Still, he could never evade the foolish idea, each morning when he first looked at the ugly symbol of his calling, that the sign was the result of some particularly diabolic vandalism perpetrated during the night by an unknown tormentor.

The grimace turned to a wintry smile; he still had a thin sense of humor for certain little vulgarities. So what if the onetime instructor at the University of Cracow could now be found behind the three gold balls of a pawnshop? It was by far the mildest joke life had played on him.

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