The Fixer: Part VI – Page 1,2,3,4,5

Part VI
1. Pages 181-187Yakov despairs and has bad dreams in which Bibikov appears and warns him that he is next to die. Yakov fears that the officials’ plan is to let him die slowly in prison. He walks and walks around his cell with nervous energy until he wears out his shoes. Eventually, his bare feet become infected and the infection moves up his legs. He is in terrible pain before the warden comes, suspecting Yakov is faking, to see what the matter is. Yakov is forced to crawl out of his cell, down some stairs, and across the outside quadrangle to the infirmary, with fellow prisoners watching him. His knees, feet, and hands are bloody from the effort. When he collapses, the slop pail man Yakov had known in the common cell finds some burlap rags and wraps them around Yakov’s knees. In the infirmary, Yakov is denied anesthetic when the surgeon cuts into his sores to release the puss. He tells Yakov that Zhenia must have felt such pain when Yakov stabbed him repeatedly. That night, Yakov has an asthma attack, but no one comes to help him. He dreams of Raisl and of actually having been the one to kill Zhenia.

AnalysisChrist’s sufferings at the hands of the Jews and his Roman executioners echo lightly throughout this section. Like Christ, Yakov is denied basic human compassion; he is forced to suffer because of his religious affiliations, not because he is a bad man or a criminal. The inhumanity of the guards who force Yakov to crawl and of the doctor who denies him anesthetic sends one message to Yakov: He is lower than an animal in their eyes.

2. Pages 187-195Yakov is given a new cell, one that is damp and so cold that frost forms on the walls. Rain seeps in. He has more asthma attacks and suffers from colds. Yakov has no heat except his greatcoat to keep warm, and he has no light, except a kerosene lamp that the guard sometimes forgets to bring at night. He begs for a cellmate or a pet, but is denied both. The mattress he lies upon is made of straw and infested with bedbugs; he is given a torn blanket in November. As far as he can tell, he is the only prisoner in the entire solitary cell block. By day, the guard Zhitnyak watches over him; by night it is the guard Kogin. Both are instructed not to talk to him, although each lets down his guard sometimes. Also in November, Yakov is allowed some firewood and a small stove, which a guard lights each morning.One day, they take his fingerprints because they say they have found a fingerprint on Zhenia’s belt and want to match it. Next, they take a hair sample to match the hairs found on his body. Another day, the warden comes to take samples of Yakov’s writing. Twice a day, the Deputy Warden and a guard do a full body search of Yakov, including his private places, even inside his mouth. Yakov hates the indignity of the searches more than anything else.3. Pages 195-201In December, the cell is so cold that Yakov awakes with his hand frozen to the wall. His asthma grows worse, and he is given a bit more firewood, a bit more food. Zhitnyak tells him that the officials do not want him to die. Yakov savors the food, even the cockroaches floating in the gruel. He dreams of food. However, he soon grows sick with diarrhea. A doctor comes to see him, but does little. Yakov fasts for two days and feels better, but as soon as he returns to eating, he grows weaker, has diarrhea again, and begins to lose his hair. Then he begins to vomit. He realizes that he has been poisoned. When he accuses them of poisoning him, the warden denies it, but after a while he finds out that one of the kitchen workers has been poisoning Yakov’s food. Yakov goes on a hunger strike until allowed to fetch his own rations from the kitchen himself.

4. Pages 201-206Yakov is bored and misses his tools. He begs to be allowed to repair things, but he is of course told he may not touch tools. He is denied reading materials, paper, and pencil. One day, however, Zhitnyak brings him a birch twig broom, and Yakov occupies himself with sweeping the entire cell. His day is now composed of getting up at 5 a.m. to clean out the cold ashes from his stove and to wait for Zhitnyak to light the stove. Twice a day he goes to the kitchen under guard to get his food. He is now searched three times a day. Urinating becomes a way for him to pass time. He is allowed a jug of water every second day in which to drink and to wash himself. He wears the same clothes day and night.One day, he is given a prayer shawl and a pair of phylacteries. He wears the shawl to keep himself warm, for his coat is falling apart. Zhitnyak gives him a needle and thread with which to sew it up, but Yakov hides the needle inside the stove. Yakov paces his cell all day long, reads the prison regulations printed on the wall.5. Pages 206-209Yakov is given newspaper strips to clean himself, and he secretly reads them. He remembers the hardships and persecution that Spinoza endured and how he died young, but free. Yakov now sees that the life he once had, which he felt was imprisoning him, was relatively free compared to his imprisonment now. Yakov also tries to recall the Psalms and pieces together fragments of them from his memory, muttering them in Hebrew and trying to translate them into Russian. He laughs at the thought that God might be by his side to help him defeat his enemies.