The Victim

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It’s sweltering summer in New York City, and Asa Leventhal is alone. His co-workers ignore or condescend to him, his wife is away with her mother, and his estranged brother has run off, abandoning his wife and two sons. One night, Leventhal is confronted by a stranger–‘one of those guys who want you to think they can see to the bottom of your soul’–who reveals himself to be a marginal figure from his distant past. Leventhal, accused of ruining the man’s life, becomes shocked and dismissive, vehemently denying any part in the man’s unhappy lot. But as time passes, he is increasingly unable to separate his own good fortune from the bad luck of this down-and-out stranger, who will not leave him be. A brief, haunting rumination on the vagaries of fate and responsibility, The Victim is, in the words of Norman Rush, Saul Bellow’s “purest creation.”

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