Bernard Malamud

I. Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) was born in Brooklyn, New York. From 1932 to 1936 he studied at the City
College of New
York, where he received his bachelor\'s degree. From 1937 to 1938 he was a student at the Columbia
University. In 1942 he
received his Master\'s degree.

From 1940 to 1948 he taught evening classes at the Erasmus High School, the same High School he went to
from 1928 to
1932. In 1943 his first two short stories were published in Threshold and American Preface. He began to teach
evening classes
at Harlem Evening High School in 1848, before he started to teach at the Oregon State College, Corvallis,
Oregon in 1949.

1950 was a highly successful year for Bernard Malamud. His stories appeared in Harper\'s Bazaar, Partisan
Review and
Commentary. His first novel The Natural was published in 1952. Although this first novel is a fantasy about a
start baseball
player, most of his following writings are concerned with Jewish themes and reflect the sad, impoverish
Brooklyn scenes of his
own childhood. His second novel The Fixer (1966), which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 is about the
suffering of a
Russian Jewish workman sentenced unjustly to prison. Thus it is an allegory of the Holocaust. The Tenants
(1971) deals with
inner-city tension and demonstrates how human beings can come to an affirmative life through suffering. His
last two novels are
Dublin\'s Lives (1979) and God\'s Grace (1982). But Malamud isn\'t only famous for his novels. His short stories,
which mix his
compassion for Jewish life with subtle touches of wry humor, have earned him quite a lot of credit, too. These
short stories have
been collected in The Magic Barrel (1958), for which he received a National Book Award, Idiots First (1963)
and Rembrant\'s
Hat (1971). He has also written a series of rather satirical stories about an rather unsuccessful Jewish artist,
Fidelman, which
were published in 1969. Today, Malamud is widely regarded as a leader of the post-World War II Jewish literary
renaissance.
Although most of his stories are about Jews, he is less concerned with being Jewish as with being human. Most
of his stories
are about individuals struggling to survive and these people are mostly symbolized by poor Jews. 1

His writing is influenced by existentialism. "For the existentialists neither universal systems of moral order nor
the influence of
society and social custom can provide meaning for an individual\'s life; each person must find meaning himself."
(Hershinow 13)
But this can only be achieved through love and compassion, not through reason. "As a writer influenced by
existentialism,
Malamud demonstrates an implicit respect for self. His protagonists characteristically transcend the disorder
that surrounds
them, finding meaning in the power of love and moral commitment." (Hershinow 13) As many of his short
stories, "The Magic
Barrel" deals with this problem, too.

II. "The Magic Barrel"

II.1. Technical description

Although Malamud has written quite a lot of short stories, by many "The Magic Barrel" (1952) is considered to
be his
master-piece.

"The Magic Barrel" is written from a third person\'s view. This narrator isn\'t part of the story himself, nor do you
have the
feeling, that he knows more than the characters do. He never addresses the reader directly, so I think that it is
fair to say, that
we are dealing with a traditional narrator. But from the third part on, you get the feeling that the story is now
being written out
Leo point of view. Maybe its just the sympathy the writer has for Leo, but from that point on, only Leo emotions
and reactions
are described.

The story itself is subdivided into five, chronologically ordered parts. The time covered in each part ranges from
a few days
(part one) to several weeks (part three). The first part of "The Magic Barrel" takes place in February. ("Although
it was still
February, winter was on its last legs,..." (p.2541)). The last date given is March ("March came"(p.2548)). The
rest of the story
covers one or two weeks, but you can\'t be absolutely sure about this, because no more exact dates are given.
The last scene
takes place in a spring night, so it might already be April. Nevertheless, it is obvious, that the story covers the
time from the end
of winter to the beginning of spring. This changing of the seasons is a very important symbol in "The Magic
Barrel", because not
only nature