Comments from our member, Laurie Pines
This collection contains 55 stories written by the famous American Jewish writer,
Bernard Malamud. The stories were composed from the 1940s through the 1980s. Mr.
Malamud was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1914 to immigrant parents who worked hard to
establish a grocery store. He received his BA from CCNY in 1936 and his MA in 1942
from Colunbia University. Mr. Malamud was honored by receiving many awards for his
written works including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Mr. Malamud’s works showed a regard for Jewish tradition and the plight of ordinary
men, and was imbued with the theme of moral wisdom gained through suffering. The
author once described himself as a chronicler of
simple people struggling to make their
lives better in a world of bad luck. I was concerned with what Jews stood for, with their
getting down to the bare bones of things. I was concerned with their ethicality – how Jews
felt they had to live in order to go on living.
In his work, Mr. Malamud often combined fantasy and reality to create a world that
was both the same and different from the one in which we live, for example: in Angel
Levine, a black, rather seedy-looking angel appears to a retired Jewish tailor and in The
Jewbird, a Yiddish-accented vagabond makes his way into an urban Jewish household
in the form of a crow. Mr. Malamud told his stories through the fable, the parable, the
allegory, the ancient art of basic storytelling in a modern voice.
I was influenced very he once explained
much by Charlie Chaplin movies,
by the rhythm and snap of his
comedy and his wonderful, wonderful mixture of comedy and sadness.
Mr. Malamud’s characters have been described as
someone who fears his fate, is caught
up in it, yet manages to outrun it; he’s the subject and object of laughter and pity. What it
is to be human, and to be humane, is his deepest concern.
I found Malamud’s writing is mesmerizing. His text is succinct, yet amazingly
descriptive. In few words he describes entire scenes and feelings. Surprisingly for some
of the stories the ending left me wondering, asking myself if the conclusion were open-
ended or if I had missed some inner meaning.