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Bernard Malamud (April 26, 1914 – March 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.
- We have two lives, Roy, the life we learn with and the life we live with after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness.
- The Natural (1952), p. 152
- 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
- "… keep in mind that the purpose of freedom is to create it for others."
- The Fixer (1966) p. 286
- 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.
- Dubin's Lives (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979) p. 27
- If your train's on the wrong track every station you come to is the wrong station.
- Dubin's Lives (reprint: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) p. 87; (originally published: 1979)
- 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.
- The New York Times (21 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 Magazine (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)
Quotes about Bernard Malamud
- Bernard Malamud was like a second father to [my husband] Clark and me: he was Clark's teacher and when I got married that event also meant our friendship. I loved his writing but I didn't think it had anything to do with my own literary vision, with my world, until I had a very low moment in my life, in 1984. I had then very little money left because of a racist wave in Canada, I was not allowed there any more and legally I could not even have a job; and I was sitting in the kitchen reading Bernard Malamud's Selected Stories (1983) that the writer had sent me himself and suddenly, out of my self-despair, I said, "My God, he is writing about the Jewish community, about their attempts to accommodate to and assimilate American culture or about their failing to do so, which is precisely what I want to write about my own community." And that was my inspiration, in a way, for Darkness (1985), my first collection of stories.
- 1994 interview in Conversations with Bharati Mukherjee Edited by Bradley C. Edwards (2009)
- (Which authors do you think your writing most closely resembles?) Mukherjee: I see a strong likeness between my writing and Bernard Malamud's, in spite of the fact that he describes the lives of East European Jewish immigrants and I talk about the lives of newcomers from the Third World. Like Malamud, I write about a minority community which escapes the ghetto and adapts itself to the patterns of the dominant American culture. Like Malamud's, my work seems to find quite naturally a moral center...Malamud most of all speaks to me as a writer and I admire his work a great deal. Immersing myself in his work gave me the self-confidence to write about my own community.
- 1987 interview in Conversations with Bharati Mukherjee Edited by Bradley C. Edwards (2009)