The Victim, Saul Bellow 1947
Bellow’s second novel (praised highly on the cover by V.S. Pritchett as ‘the best novel to come out of American or England for a generation.”) is a dark story which takes place in a very hot summer in New York city. Asa Leventhal, a big swarthy Jewish guy becomes the object of another man’s delusional focus, Kirby Allbee. Allbee felt that Asa’s actions at a job interview he had recommended for him had led to his firing, an inability to get another job, and his descent into being a homeless, drunken bum. Leventhal with his Jewish insecurity and paranoia is unable to set limits or walk away and is gradually drawn into a sick and destructive relationship threatening his sanity and life. Side stories about his alienation from his brother, his nephew’s death, his wife’s absence all serve to highlight Leventhal as a man without a solid core, untethered to his friends and family and subject to other’s opinions, especially the anti-Semitic and brutal Allbee. Is there a questionable play on his name? All be what? The role of luck, getting away with it, having escaped the lost, the outcast, the overcome, the effaced, the ruined. Nothing is secure. Leventhal is modern urban man but even more so, Jewish in his radical involvement with the modern world—no gong back.