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Bernard Malamud Edit Profile

writer

Bernard Malamud was an American novelist. He is best known for his short story, "Angel Levine,” about a black Jewish angel who helps rescue a modern-day Job figure, a Jewish tailor named Manischewitz.

Background

Bernard Malamud was born on April 26, 1914 in Brooklyn. Son of Max and Bertha (Fidelman) Malamud.

Education

He was educated at New York City College and Columbia University.

Career

He was a high school teacher (at Erasmus Hall and at other New York City evening high schools) and college instructor (at Oregon State University; Bennington College, Vermont: and Harvard Uni¬versity). as well as a prolific American-Jewish fiction writer, some of whose works have been made into films.

Strongly influenced bv such masters of realistic fiction as Dostoyevsky, Malamud paints starkly realistic portraits, for example, the conditions of imprisonment suffered by Yakov Bok, a simple Jewish artisan accused of ritual Jewish murder in tsarist Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century (The Fixer. 1966). Malamud sometimes ventures into the realm of science fiction — as in God's Grace, where the only survivors of a nuclear war are a Jew, Calvin Cohn, and a chimpanzee — or fantasy —as in “The Jewbird” (in the collection Idiots First) which has been described as a parody of Poe’s "The Raven.” Nonetheless, Malamud used primarily realistie settings, going beyond those settings by means of symbolism and dream-daydream images.

Whereas his Pulitzer Prize-winning fourth novel, The Fixer, is modeled to a large extent on the sufferings of Menachcm Mendel Beilis, a Jew accused of ritual murder by the tsarist Russian authorities in 1913, the work can be seen not only as the portrayal of anti-Semitism in action, but also as a universal study of the individual struggling against the forces of injustice and cruelty, with the Jew as a mythic representation par excellence ol all such individuals. The Jewish identity of Seymour Levin, the central protagonist in A New Life, his third novel, is suggested by the surname and alluded to in a veiled statement only toward the end of the novel; his Jewishness does not play a pivotal role in the work and he is chiefly a symbol of the struggle for academic freedom and integrity in McCarthy era America.

Works

Views

While the majority of Malamud’s characters are Jewish, he wanted to be recognized as an American, rather than as an American-Jewish writer. His first novel, The Natural, is his only one without any Jewish characters. The book is an allegory about a baseball star who climbs to the pinnacle ot success and who, through his own uncontrollable passions, suffers humiliating defeat and disaster. However, the presence of Jewish characters in a Malamud work does not necessarily signify that this particular work is exclusively — or even primarily — concerned with Jewish themes.

Quotations: FROM MALAMUD’S “THE JEWBIRD”

“You’re sure you're not some kind of a ghost or dybbuk?”

“Not a dybbuk,” answered the bird, "though one of my relatives had such an experience once. It’s all over now, thank God. They freed her from a former lover, a crazy jealous man. She’s now the mother of two wonderful chldren.”

"Birds?” Cohen asked slyly.

"Why not?”

"What kind of birds?”

"Like me, Jewbirds."

Cohen tipped back in his chair and guffawed. “That’s a big laugh. I’ve heard of a Jewfish but not a Jewbird."

“We’re once removed." The bird rested on one skinny leg, then on the other. "Please, could you spare me maybe a piece ot herring with a small crust of bread?”

Membership

Member American Academy Arts and Sciences.

Connections

Married Ann de Chiara, November 6, 1945. Children: Paul, Janna.