Bernard Malamud: Biography, Books & Short Stories

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Many through the ages have worked hard to maintain Jewish culture, but with Bernard Malamud, it almost seems effortless. Read more to learn about the life of this prominent author and to find out how his works have preserved his ancient heritage.

True Wealth: A Brief Biography of Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud (1914-1986), quintessential Jewish-American novelist and short story writer
Photo of Bernard Malamud

Many of us in First-World countries might not like to think that poverty still exists here, but some of us might also know all too well what it's like to do without. Bernard Malamud - born 26 April 1914 in Brooklyn, New York - was definitely familiar with the feeling. His parents, Max Malamud and Bertha Fidelman, were immigrants who had come to America to escape persecution in czarist Russia. Though the family ran a small grocery store, money was tight during the Great Depression of the 1920's and '30's, and there was no extra cash for luxuries like books.

Despite this lack of expendable income, Bernard enjoyed reading while in high school in Brooklyn and even began writing his own stories. With help from the government, he also attended the City College of New York, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1936. The 1930's would prove to be an influential decade for Malamud for another reason, though. This was the time that saw Hitler's rise to power in Germany and his subsequent systematic extermination of European Jews during the Holocaust. This great tragedy of history had a profound impact on Bernard and, after learning of its horrors, he turned much of his attention to studying Jewish history and traditions. Malamud also began to take a more serious interest in writing as a result.

In 1942, Bernard got his M.A. from Columbia University, and he taught at several high schools in New York City until 1949. That year, he was able to secure a collegiate teaching post at Oregon State University. While in Oregon, Malamud published his first novel (The Natural, 1952), and his career as an author quickly took off. With the success of his novels and short stories, Bernard's reputation as a writer soon gained him considerable praise, as well as a better job in Vermont, where he began teaching creative writing at Bennington College. Malamud continued to write and teach at Bennington until very shortly before his death on 18 March 1986.

With around twenty total novels and short story collections, Bernard Malamud was almost as prolific as he was profound. His work with Jewish traditions and literary motifs was instrumental in the development of the often uniquely solemn and introspective nature of Jewish-American literature. Whatever Bernard might've lacked in money or things, he discovered that true wealth comes from ideas - preserving them, adapting them, and sharing them. Keep reading to take a quick look at some of Malamud's works, which have influenced generations to come.

Novels and Short Stories by Malamud

The Natural

The current generation might not really know who Robert Redford is, but this famous actor starred in a film adaptation of Malamud's first novel in 1984. He portrayed the protagonist of The Natural, Roy Hobbs, a baseball prodigy whose stunning career is cut short by a gunshot. As with many of his works, Malamud incorporated several mythological elements into The Natural, including links to lore surrounding the Holy Grail.

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