Bernard Malamud Tribute

Thursday May 1, 2014
07:00 pm

Tags: Event







Bernard Malamud would have turned 100 on April 26. On May 1, The Center for Fiction celebrated his life and work with a panel discussion featuring the Malamud family as well as prominent admirers of the author from literature, cinema, and beyond. The evening opened with an old Calliope recording of Malamud reading his story "The Mourners"


The event was organized by debut novelist Boris Fishman, repaying a debt to an author who taught him perhaps more than any other as he worked on the book. He will moderate the panel, which will also feature Alan Cheuse, Philip Davis, Clark Blaise, Liesl Schillinger, Kevin Baker, Téa Obreht, and Bharati Mukherjee.



About Bernard Malamud


Bernard Malamud (1914 - 1986) was an American author of novels and short stories. Along with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, he was one of the best-known American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His first short story collection, The Magic Barrel, won the National Book Award, and his 1966 novel The Fixer, about antisemitism in Tsarist Russia, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1988, the annual PEN/Malamud award was created in his honor to recognize excellence in the art of the short story.


"Malamud, a virtuoso of darkest irony, refuses the easy conventions of cynicism and its dry detachment. His stories know suffering, loneliness, lust, confinement, defeat; and even when they are lighter, they tremble with subterranean fragility...The voice was unlike any other, haunted by whispers of Hawthorne, Babel, Isak Dinesen, even Poe, and at the same time uniquely possessed: a fingerprint of fire and ash. It was as if Malamud were at work in a secret laboratory of language, smelting a new poetics that infused the inflections of one tongue into the music of another. His landscapes, nature’s and the mind’s, are inimitable; the Malamudian sensibility, its wounded openness to large feeling, has had no successors." READ more 

 — Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times 


"Bernard Malamud is the wrong writer for our age. Today’s young fiction writers live in an Age of Me: Memoirists in novelist clothing, we understand the world by understanding ourselves. Malamud was the son of a Brooklyn grocer who had fled tsarist Russia. Having come of age during the Depression, the same era that shaped his contemporary Saul Bellow, Malamud wrote about Them: The unadjustable Old World elders who were his milk at home and his giveaway when Malamud was trying to make himself an American out of it; the Christians who seemed as general in America as they had been in the Pale (The Assistant); the inexplicable blacks, who seemed to suffer just as the Jews did but saw in it competition rather than kinship (The Tenants)." read more

 — Boris Fishman



Reflections of a Writer: Long Work, Short Life

by Bernard Malamud


"One night, after laboring in vain for hours attempting to bring a short story to life, I sat up in bed at an open window looking at the stars after a rainfall. Then I experienced a wave of feeling, of heartfelt emotion bespeaking commitment to life and art, so deeply it brought tears to my eyes. For the hundredth time I promised myself that I would someday be a very good writer. This renewal, and others like it, kept me alive in art years from fulfillment. I must have been about 25 then, and was still waiting, in my fashion, for the true writing life to begin. I'm reminded of Kafka's remark in his mid-20's: 'God doesn't want me to write, but I must write.' " read more



"The Mourners," read by Bernard Malamud

Courtesy of Calliope Author Readings



List of Speakers


Alan Cheuse's latest book is An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring and Other Stories and he'll talk about how Malamud once paid a parking ticket for him.


Philip Davis is Malamud's biographer and the editor of the three-volume Complete Malamud for the Library of America, the first two volumes of which were recently published to mark the centenary of his birth. Davis is also the author of a (little known) collection of short stories entitled Malamud's People (1995), one of which faces this conundrum:


Q: When is a Jew most not a Catholic?  A: When he can't go to confession... 


Clark Blaise is the author of 25 books and the owner of "Bern's" Smith-Corona electric, which sits in his San Francisco study without a new ribbon. Blaise will talk about his walks with Malamud in Bennington, which always started with a visit to Robert Frost's grave, and Malamud's evocations of God — the census-taker, the ticket-seller, He who is forced by human suffering to recognize His own implacable fury and the need to change His ways.


Liesl Schillinger is a critic and translator who will discuss why The Fixer, in its male-female dynamics, is the most Dostoevskian novel ever written post-Dostoevsky.


Kevin Baker is the author, most recently, of the novel The Big Crowd. He will talk about how Bernard Malamud’s The Natural has nothing to do with Robert Redford, Kim Basinger, or Randy Newman’s heroic score.

Photo credit: Nina Subin

Téa Obreht is a fiction writer. Though no hat has ever been a friend of hers, she will be discussing “Rembrandt’s Hat.”

Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan

Bharati Mukherjee is the author of eight novels (most recently, Miss New India, Desirable Daughters and The Tree Bride); two collections of short stories (Darkness and The Middleman & Other Stories); and the co-author, with Clark Blaise, of two books of non-fiction (Days and Nights in Calcutta and The Sorrow and the Terror: The Haunting Legacy of the Air India Tragedy), and numerous essays on immigration and American culture. She is the first naturalized U.S. citizen to win the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Best Fiction. She is an Emerita Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Photo credit: Emma Dodge Hanson

Boris Fishman’s debut novel A Replacement Life is out from HarperCollins in June. He owes the draft that prevailed to Bernard Malamud, whom he read every morning before sitting down to write.

Photo credit: Rob Liguori




This event is sponsored in part by the The Library of America, Tablet Magazine, and the Jewish Book Council.



The Library of America is a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to fostering greater appreciation of America’s literary heritage by publishing authoritative editions of the nation’s best and most significant writing. The first two volumes of its three-volume edition of the novels and stories of Bernard Malamud, edited by Philip Davis, have just been released, numbers 248 and 249 in the Library of America series.


Tablet is a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture. Launched in June 2009, it’s a project of the not-for-profit Nextbook Inc.


The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the reading, writing and publishing of Jewish literature. For more Jewish literary blog posts, reviews of Jewish books, reading lists, book club resources, and to learn about awards and conferences, please visit