Bernard Malamud is considered one of the greatest Jewish authors of the 20th century. This Brooklyn native has granted the community a trove of classic works, still acclaimed today decades after the iconic writer’s death.
Malamud was born April 26, 1914, to Russian Jewish immigrants, and was a natural storyteller from a young age.
As he grew, his focus turned to literature and education. Malamud worked as a teacher in training before obtaining a BA, then a master’s from Columbia University.
He eventually began teaching English classes for adults, typically night courses for those unable to obtain their education by other means.
He moved on to collegiate teaching, becoming a professor at Oregon State University to teach composition. He wrote fiction on the side, committing to a schedule that saw him devote three days a week to his craft.
Malamud ended up at Bennington College, where he taught creative writing from the early 60’s until his retirement. In 1967, he was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Malamud died on March 18, 1986, leaving behind a wife and two children. He also left behind a prolific body of work, including novels and short story collections. Among his most noted works were “The Magic Barrel” and “The Fixer.”
For his efforts, Malamud received several accolades, including the National Book Award in 1959 and 1967, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1967, and the O. Henry Award in 1969.
Upon his death, Malamud was remembered by a number of esteemed fellow writers, from Phillip Roth to Saul Bellow.
“Malamud in his novels and stories discovered a sort of communicative genius in the impoverished, harsh jargon of immigrant New York. He was a myth maker, a fabulist, a writer of exquisite parables,” said Bellow, himself a Pulitzer Prize winner.
“The English novelist Anthony Burgess said of him that he ‘never forgets that he is an American Jew, and he is at his best when posing the situation of a Jew in urban American society.’”