Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud (April 26, 1914 – March 18, 1986) was an American novelist and short story writer. Along with Saul Bellow, Joseph Heller, and Philip Roth, he was one of the best known American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel, The Natural, was adapted into a 1984 film starring Robert Redford. His 1966 novel The Fixer (also filmed), about antisemitism in the Russian Empire, won both the National Book Award[1] and the Pulitzer Prize.[2]

Bernard Malamud
Bernard Malamud portrait
BornApril 26, 1914
Brooklyn, New York, United States
DiedMarch 18, 1986 (aged 71)
Manhattan, New York, United States
OccupationAuthor, teacher
GenreNovel, short story
Notable worksThe Natural, The Fixer


Bernard Malamud was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Bertha (née Fidelman) and Max Malamud, Russian Jewish immigrants. A brother, Eugene, born in 1917, lived a hard and lonely life and died in his fifties. Malamud entered adolescence at the start of the Great Depression. From 1928 to 1932, Bernard attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn.[3] During his youth, he saw many films and enjoyed relating their plots to his school friends. He was especially fond of Charlie Chaplin's comedies. Malamud worked for a year at $4.50 a day as a teacher-in-training, before attending college on a government loan. He received his B.A. degree from City College of New York in 1936. In 1942, he obtained a master's degree from Columbia University, writing a thesis on Thomas Hardy. He was excused from military service in World War II because he was the sole support of his widower father. He first worked for the Bureau of the Census in Washington D.C., then taught English in New York, mostly high school night classes for adults.

Starting in 1949, Malamud taught four sections of freshman composition each semester at Oregon State University (then Oregon State College, or OSC), an experience fictionalized in his 1961 novel A New Life. Because he lacked the Ph.D., he was not allowed to teach literature courses, and for a number of years his rank was that of instructor. In those days, OSC, a land grant university, placed little emphasis on the teaching of humanities or the writing of fiction. While at OSC, he devoted three days out of every week to his writing, and gradually emerged as a major American author. In 1961, he left OSC to teach creative writing at Bennington College, a position he held until retirement. In 1967, he was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1942, Malamud met Ann De Chiara (November 1, 1917 – March 20, 2007), an Italian-American Roman Catholic, and a 1939 Cornell University graduate. They married on November 6, 1945, despite the opposition of their respective parents. Ann typed his manuscripts and reviewed his writing. Ann and Bernard had two children, Paul (b. 1947) and Janna (b. 1952). Janna Malamud Smith is the author of a memoir about her father, titled My Father Is A Book.

Raised Jewish, Malamud was in adulthood an agnostic humanist.[4]

Malamud died in Manhattan in 1986, at the age of 71.[5] He is buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[6]

In his writing, Malamud depicts an honest picture of the despair and difficulties of the immigrants to America, and their hope of reaching their dreams despite their poverty.

Writing career

Malamud wrote slowly and carefully; he was not especially prolific. He is the author of eight novels[7] and four collections of short stories. The posthumously published Complete Stories contains 55 short stories and is 629 pages long. Maxim Lieber served as his literary agent in 1942 and 1945.

He completed his first novel, The Light Sleeper, in 1948, but later burned the manuscript. His first published novel was The Natural (1952), which has become one of his best remembered and most symbolic works. The story traces the life of Roy Hobbs, an unknown middle-aged baseball player who achieves legendary status with his stellar talent. This novel was made into a 1984 movie starring Robert Redford (described by the film writer David Thomson as "poor baseball and worse Malamud").

Malamud's second novel, The Assistant (1957), set in New York and drawing on Malamud's own childhood, is an account of the life of Morris Bober, a Jewish immigrant who owns a grocery store in Brooklyn. Although he is struggling financially, Bober takes in a drifter of dubious character. This novel was quickly followed by The Magic Barrel, his first published collection of short stories (1958). It won Malamud the first of two National Book Awards that he received in his lifetime.[8]

In 1967, his novel The Fixer, about anti-semitism in the Russian Empire, won both the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[1][2] His other novels include Dubin's Lives, a powerful evocation of middle age which uses biography to recreate the narrative richness of its protagonists' lives, and The Tenants, perhaps a meta-narrative on Malamud's own writing and creative struggles, which, set in New York City, deals with racial issues and the emergence of black/African American literature in the American 1970s landscape.

Malamud was renowned for his short stories, often oblique allegories set in a dreamlike urban ghetto of immigrant Jews. Of Malamud, Flannery O'Connor wrote: "I have discovered a short-story writer who is better than any of them, including myself." He published his first stories in 1943, "Benefit Performance" in Threshold and "The Place Is Different Now" in American Preface. In the early 1950s, his stories began appearing in Harper's Bazaar, Partisan Review, and Commentary.


Writing in the second half of the twentieth century, Malamud was well aware of the social problems of his day: rootlessness, infidelity, abuse, divorce, and more. But he also depicted love as redemptive and sacrifice as uplifting. In his writings, success often depends on cooperation between antagonists. For example, in "The Mourners" landlord and tenant learn from each other's anguish. In "The Magic Barrel", the matchmaker worries about his "fallen" daughter, while the daughter and the rabbinic student are drawn together by their need for love and salvation.[9]

Posthumous tributes

Malamud, Bernard grave
Grave of Bernard Malamud at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Philip Roth: "A man of stern morality," Malamud was driven by "the need to consider long and seriously every last demand of an overtaxed, overtaxing conscience torturously exacerbated by the pathos of human need unabated."[10]

Saul Bellow, also quoting Anthony Burgess: "Well, we were here, first-generation Americans, our language was English and a language is a spiritual mansion from which no one can evict us. Malamud in his novels and stories discovered a sort of communicative genius in the impoverished, harsh jargon of immigrant New York. He was a myth maker, a fabulist, a writer of exquisite parables. The English novelist Anthony Burgess said of him that he 'never forgets that he is an American Jew, and he is at his best when posing the situation of a Jew in urban American society.' 'A remarkably consistent writer,' he goes on, 'who has never produced a mediocre novel .... He is devoid of either conventional piety or sentimentality ... always profoundly convincing.' Let me add on my own behalf that the accent of hard-won and individual emotional truth is always heard in Malamud's words. He is a rich original of the first rank." [Saul Bellow's eulogy to Malamud, 1986]


Bernard Malamud The Natural signed copy
A signed copy of Malamud's book The Natural held by Oregon State University.[11]

There were numerous tributes and celebrations marking the centenary of Malamud's birth (April 26, 1914).[12][13] To commemorate the centenary, Malamud's current publisher (who still keeps most of Malamud's work in print) published on-line (through their blog) some of the "Introductions" to these works.[14] Oregon State University announced that they would be celebrating the 100th birthday "of one of its most-recognized faculty members" (Malamud taught there from 1949 to 1961).[15]

Media outlets also joined in the celebration. Throughout March, April, and May 2014 there were many Malamud stories and articles on blogs, in newspapers (both print and on-line), and on the radio. Many of these outlets featured reviews of Malamud's novels and stories, editions of which have recently been issued by the Library of America.[16] There were also many tributes and appreciations from fellow writers and surviving family members. Some of the more prominent of these kinds of tributes included those from Malamud's daughter, from Malamud's biographer Philip Davis,[17] and from fellow novelist and short story writer Cynthia Ozick.[18] Other prominent writers who gathered for readings and tributes included Tobias Wolff, Edward P. Jones, and Lorrie Moore.[19]


National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

O. Henry Award

  • (1969) "Man in the Drawer"

PEN/Malamud Award

Given annually since 1988 to honor Malamud's memory, the PEN/Malamud Award recognizes excellence in the art of the short story. The award is funded in part by Malamud's $10,000 bequest to the PEN American Center. The fund continues to grow thanks to the generosity of many members of PEN and other friends, and with the proceeds from annual readings. Past winners of the award include John Updike (1988), Saul Bellow (1989), Eudora Welty (1992), Joyce Carol Oates (1996), Alice Munro (1997), Sherman Alexie (2001), Ursula K. Le Guin (2002), and Tobias Wolff (2006).


For a more comprehensive listing of works, see Bernard Malamud bibliography


Story collections

  • The Magic Barrel (1958)
  • Idiots First (1963)
  • Rembrandt's Hat (1974)
  • The Stories of Bernard Malamud (1983)
  • The People and Uncollected Stories (includes the unfinished novel The People) (1989)
  • The Complete Stories (1997)

Short stories

Books about Malamud

  • Smith, Janna Malamud. My Father Is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud. (2006)
  • Davis, Philip. Bernard Malamud: A Writer's Life. (2007)
  • Swirski, Peter. "You'll Never Make a Monkey Out of Me or Altruism, Proverbial Wisdom, and Bernard Malamud's God's Grace". American Utopia and Social Engineering in Literature, Social Thought, and Political History. New York, Routledge 2011.


  1. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1967". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
    (With essay by Harold Augenbraum from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  2. ^ a b c "Fiction". Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  3. ^ Boyer, David. "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: FLATBUSH; Grads Hail Erasmus as It Enters a Fourth Century", The New York Times, March 11, 2001. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  4. ^ Markose Abraham (2011). American Immigration Aesthetics: Bernard Malamud and Bharati Mukherjee As Immigrants. AuthorHouse. p. 146. ISBN 978-1-4567-8243-6. An agnostic humanist, Malamud has unflinching faith in man's ability to choose and make 'his own world' from the 'usable past'.
  5. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (March 19, 1986). "Bernard Malamud Dies at 71" (obituary). The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  6. ^ "Bernard Malamud's page on Find A Grave". Retrieved July 2, 2017.
  7. ^ Malamud, Bernard. The People: And Other Uncollected Fiction. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989
  8. ^ a b "National Book Awards – 1959". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
    (With essays by Liz Rosenberg and Harold Augenbraum from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  9. ^ "Bernard Malamud (1914–1986)". Contributing Editor: Evelyn Avery(?). Georgetown University course materials(?).
  10. ^ Roth, Philip, "Pictures of Malamud", The New York Times, April 20, 1986. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  11. ^ "Inscribed, first-edition copy of acclaimed novel, "The Natural," donated to OSU". Oregon State University. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Bernard Malamud at 100". 92Y. Archived from the original on 2014-04-22.
  13. ^ "Bernard Malamud Tribute, Thursday May 1, 2014 (video)". Center for Fiction. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014.
  14. ^ "Bernard Malamud Centenary - Work in Progress". Work in Progress.
  15. ^ "OSU to celebrate 100th birthday of former faculty member Bernard Malamud - News & Research Communications - Oregon State University".
  16. ^ James Campbell (21 March 2014). "Book Review: Library of America's Bernard Malamud volumes". WSJ.
  17. ^ "Fuse Interview: Jewish-American Writer Bernard Malamud at 100 — Appreciating the Beauty of the Ethical".
  18. ^ Ozick, Cynthia (March 13, 2014). "Judging the World: Library of America's Bernard Malamud Collections". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Episode 40 – The Legacy of Bernard Malamud | PEN / Faulkner". Retrieved 2018-03-21.


  • Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 28: Twentieth Century American-Jewish Fiction Writers. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Daniel Walden, Pennsylvania State University. The Gale Group. 1984. pp. 166–175.
  • Smith, Janna Malamud. My Father Is a Book. Houghton-Mifflin Company. New York: New York. 2006
  • Mark Athitakis, "The Otherworldly Malamud", Humanities, March/April 2014 | Volume 35, Number 2

External links

A New Life (novel)

A New Life is a semi-autobiographical campus novel by Bernard Malamud first published in 1961. It is Malamud's third published novel.

Bernard Malamud bibliography

This is a bibliography of works by Bernard Malamud.

Dubin's Lives

Dubin's Lives is the seventh published novel by the American writer Bernard Malamud. The title character is a biographer working on a life of D. H. Lawrence. It first appeared in hardcover from the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1979. Portions of the novel originally appeared,

in somewhat different form, in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Playboy. It is still in print, Farrar, Straus and Giroux having reissued a paperback edition in 2003 with an Introduction by Thomas Mallon.

God's Grace

God's Grace is the final novel (his eighth) written by American author Bernard Malamud, published in 1982 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The novel focuses on Calvin Cohn, the supposed sole survivor of thermonuclear war and God's second Flood, who attempts to rebuild and perfect civilization amongst the primates that make their way onto a tropical island.

Henry Bech

Henry Bech is a fictional character created by American author John Updike. Bech first appeared in assorted short stories, stories which were later compiled in the books Bech: A Book (1970), Bech Is Back (1982), and Bech at Bay (1998). These books were all later collected in The Complete Henry Bech (2001), which also included the short story His Oeuvre (2000).

Updike's Bech is considered an antihero, and Updike's alter-ego. While Updike generally concerns himself with WASP culture, is married, and is prolific, Bech is apathetically Jewish, a bachelor (later a husband and stepfather for a time, and finally a father in old age), and unprolific. In the introduction to his first collection, the eponymous author speculates he is modeled in part after many other famous writers, including Norman Mailer, Bernard Malamud, J.D. Salinger and Updike himself.

Philip Davis

Philip Davis or Phil Davis may refer to:

Phil Davis (cartoonist) (1906–1964), American illustrator

Phil Davis (actor) (born 1953), English actor

Phil Davis (fighter) (born 1984), American mixed martial artist and former collegiate wrestler

Phil Davis (Australian footballer) (born 1990), Australian rules footballer for the Greater Western Sydney Giants

Philip "Brave" Davis (born 1951), Bahamian politician

Philip Davis (Australian politician) (born 1952)

Philip J. Davis (1923–2018), American mathematician

Phil Davis (footballer, born 1944), retired English professional footballer

Philip (M.) Davis (academic) U. of Liverpool; Library of America editor for Bernard Malamud volumes

Pictures of Fidelman

Pictures of Fidelman: An Exhibition is the fifth published novel of Bernard Malamud. It is a novel in the form of a short story cycle, which gathers six stories dealing with Arthur Fidelman, an art student from the Bronx who travels to Italy, initially to research Giotto, but also with the hopes of becoming a painter. It was published in 1969 and includes stories from Malamud's earlier collections The Magic Barrel (1958) and Idiots First (1963), plus two previously uncollected stories and one previously unpublished story.

The Assistant

The Assistant may refer to:

The Assistant (Walser novel) (German: Der Gehülfe), a 1908 novel by Robert Walser

The Assistant (novel), a 1957 novel by Bernard Malamud

The Assistant (TV series), a satirical reality series starring Andy Dick.

The Assistant (1982 film), a 1982 Czech film

The Assistant (1998 film), a 1998 film

The Assistant (2015 film), a 2015 film

The Assistant (1998 film)

The Assistant is a 1998 film directed by Daniel Petrie. It is based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Bernard Malamud. It follows a young man who finds work at a shop at the turn-of-the-century, and falls in love with the owner's daughter, inflaming deeply religious origins. Filming took place in Toronto.

The Assistant (novel)

The Assistant (1957) is Bernard Malamud's second novel. Set in a working-class neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, it explores the situation of first- and second-generation Americans in the early 1950s as experienced by three main characters and the relationships between them: an aging Jewish refugee from the Russian Empire who owns and operates a failing small grocery store, a young Italian American drifter trying to overcome a bad start in life by becoming the grocer's assistant and the grocer's daughter, who becomes romantically involved with her father's assistant despite parental objections and misgivings of her own.

It was adapted into a movie in 1997.

The Fixer (1968 film)

The Fixer is a 1968 British drama film based on the 1966 semi-biographical novel of the same name, written by Bernard Malamud. It was directed by John Frankenheimer and stars Alan Bates.

The Fixer (novel)

The Fixer is a novel by Bernard Malamud published in 1966 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction (his second)

and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.The Fixer provides a fictionalized version of the Beilis case. Menahem Mendel Beilis was a Jew unjustly imprisoned in Tsarist Russia. The "Beilis trial" of 1913 caused an international uproar and Beilis was acquitted by a jury.

The book was adapted into a 1968 film of the same name starring Alan Bates (Yakov Bok) who received an Oscar nomination.

The Jewbird

"The Jewbird" is a short story by the Jewish-American writer Bernard Malamud. The protagonist is a crow named Schwartz, who identifies himself as a Jewbird. Fleeing persecution by antisemitic birds, Schwartz tries to find a home with a New York City Jewish family. Despite being generous and respectful to the family, the father first persecutes, and then attempts to kill Schwartz. The story has been interpreted as an allegory about Jewish self-hatred.The story was first published in The Reporter on April 11, 1963, and collected in Idiots First (1963). It also appeared in A Malamud Reader (1967), The Stories of Bernard Malamud (1983), and Two Fables (1978), where it appeared along with "Talking Horse." The story was adapted for the stage at the Israeli Gesher Theater, along with other tales, under the title Schwartz and Other Animals.

The Magic Barrel

The Magic Barrel is a 1958 collection of thirteen short stories written by Bernard Malamud and published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Also, the Jewish Publication Society released its own edition at the same time. It won the 1959 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. It was also Malamud's debut collection of stories.

The Mourners

Bernard Malamud’s short story "The Mourners” first appeared in Discovery in January 1955. The story was included in Malamud's first collection of short stories, The Magic Barrel, published in 1958.

The Natural

The Natural is a 1952 novel about baseball by Bernard Malamud, and is his debut novel. The story follows Roy Hobbs, a baseball prodigy whose career is sidetracked when he is shot by a woman whose motivation remains mysterious. Most of the story concerns itself with his attempts to return to baseball later in life, when he plays for the fictional New York Knights with his legendary bat "Wonderboy".

Based upon the bizarre shooting incident and subsequent comeback of Philadelphia Phillies player Eddie Waitkus, the story of Roy Hobbs takes some poetic license and embellishes what was truly a strange, but memorable, account of a career lost too soon. Apart from the fact that both Waitkus and fictional Hobbs were shot by women, there are few if any other similarities. It has been alternately suggested that the shooting incident might have been inspired by Chicago Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges, who was shot by a showgirl with whom he was romantically linked, but there has been no evidence to support this claim.

A film adaptation of The Natural starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs was released in 1984.

The Tenants

The Tenants may refer to:

The Tenants (novel), a 1971 Bernard Malamud novel

The Tenants (1986 film), Iranian film

The Tenants (2005 film), film based on the Malamud novel

The Tenants (2009 film), Brazilian film

The Tenants (band), an Australian band

The Tenants (2005 film)

The Tenants is a 2005 film drama directed by Danny Green and starring Dylan McDermott and Snoop Dogg. It is based on the 1971 novel The Tenants by Bernard Malamud.

The Tenants (novel)

The Tenants is the sixth novel of Bernard Malamud, published in 1971.

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