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Malamud, Bernard

life stories jewish novel

(US, 1914–86)

Born in Brooklyn to a Russian immigrant family who kept a shop, Malamud spent most of his writing life as a teacher. Influenced by the Yiddish tradition, his stories and novels tend to be moral fables, combining realism with fabulous or allegorical characters and events. His first novel, The Natural (1952), however, concerns the fall, rise, and subsequent failure of Roy Hobbs, a star baseball hitter, whose career succumbs to corruption. The Assistant (1957) is a more subtle and morally serious work, telling how a petty thief becomes attached to an impoverished Jewish grocer's life, taking on responsibility for the shop and eventually embracing Judaism's values. Malamud's several volumes of stories, notably The Magic Barrel (1958) and Rembrandt's Hat (1973), are lighter in tone and often ruefully comic. Jewishness is seen in conflict with other cultures and races: a black angel comes to the assistance of a disbelieving Jewish tailor; there are miracles and marriage brokers, while ‘The Jewbird’ and ‘Talking Horse’ are symbolic tales of conscience and humanity. Dubin's Lives (1979) is a richly meditative novel about biography, the writer, and middle-aged sexual obsessions. It follows the disruptive entry of a young woman, Fanny, into the comfortable life of a successful biographer who is writing on D. H. Lawrence. As is characteristic of Malamud, the characters are matured by experience and personal suffering.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow. See UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  JS

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