Bernard Malamud

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I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times — once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say
I don't regret the years I put into my work. Perhaps I regret the fact that I was not two men, one who could live a full life apart from writing; and one who lived in art, exploring all he had to experience and know how to make his work right; yet not regretting that he had put his life into the art of perfecting the work.

Bernard Malamud (April 26, 1914March 18, 1986) was an American novelist and short-story writer. His stories often take the form of moral fables dealing with the struggles of Jewish-American characters.

Quotes[edit]

  • Without heroes, we're all plain people, and don't know how far we can go.
  • I don't think you can do anything for anyone without giving up something of your own.
    • The Natural (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) p. 149. (originally published 1952)
  • Levin wanted friendship and got friendliness; he wanted steak and they offered spam.
    • A New Life (1961; repr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968) p. 111
  • If you ever forget you are a Jew a goy will remind you.
    • "Black is My Favorite Color", in Idiots First (1963), p. 29
  • "Mourning is a hard business," Cesare said. "If people knew there'd be less death."
    • "Life is Better than Death", in Idiots First (1963), p. 85
  • There comes a time in a man's life when to get where he has to – if there are no doors or windows – he walks through a wall.
    • "The Man in the Drawer", in Rembrandt's Hat (1973); cited from Selected Stories (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985) p. 225
  • I think I said "All men are Jews except they don't know it." I doubt I expected anyone to take the statement literally. But I think it's an understandable statement and a metaphoric way of indicating how history, sooner or later, treats all men.
    • "An Interview with Bernard Malamud", in Leslie A. Field and Joyce W. Field (eds.) Bernard Malamud: A Collection of Critical Essays (London: Prentice-Hall, 1975) p. 11
  • One can't make pure clay of time's mud. There is no life that can be recaptured wholly; as it was. Which is to say that all biography is ultimately fiction.
  • Those who write about life, reflect about life…. you see in others who you are.
    • Dubin's Lives (1979)
  • Life is a tragedy full of joy.
    • New York Times (29 January 1979)
  • It was all those biographies in me yelling, “We want out. We want to tell you what we’ve done to you.”
    • On how Dubin’s Lives resulted from a lifetime of reading biographies, W (16 February 1979)
  • If I may, I would at this point urge young writers not to be too much concerned with the vagaries of the marketplace. Not everyone can make a first-rate living as a writer, but a writer who is serious and responsible about his work, and life, will probably find a way to earn a decent living, if he or she writes well. A good writer will be strengthened by his good writing at a time, let us say, of the resurgence of ignorance in our culture. I think I have been saying that the writer must never compromise with what is best in him in a world defined as free.
    • Address at Bennington College (30 October 1984) as published in "Reflections of a Writer: Long Work, Short Life" in The New York Times (20 March 1988); also in Talking Horse : Bernard Malamud on Life and Work (1996) edited by Alan Cheuse and ‎Nicholas Delbanco, p. 35
  • I have written almost all my life. My writing has drawn, out of a reluctant soul, a measure of astonishment at the nature of life. And the more I wrote well, the better I felt I had to write.
    In writing I had to say what had happened to me, yet present it as though it had been magically revealed. I began to write seriously when I had taught myself the discipline necessary to achieve what I wanted. When I touched that time, my words announced themselves to me. I have given my life to writing without regret, except when I consider what in my work I might have done better. I wanted my writing to be as good as it must be, and on the whole I think it is. I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times — once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say.
    Somewhere I put it this way: first drafts are for learning what one's fiction wants him to say. Revision works with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to re-form it. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing: The men and things of today are wont to lie fairer and truer in tomorrow's meadow, Henry Thoreau said.
    I don't regret the years I put into my work. Perhaps I regret the fact that I was not two men, one who could live a full life apart from writing; and one who lived in art, exploring all he had to experience and know how to make his work right; yet not regretting that he had put his life into the art of perfecting the work.
    • Address at Bennington College (30 October 1984) as published in "Reflections of a Writer: Long Work, Short Life" in The New York Times (20 March 1988)

External links[edit]

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