Bernard Malamud grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. Many of his award-winning novels and story collections, including The Fixer, The Assistant, and Dubin’s Lives, treat themes of Jewish life, often told as parables with overarching motifs of sin and spiritual redemption. His work earned him a reputation as one of the most probing, profound, and rigorous storytellers of the century.
“The Mourners”, from The Magic Barrel
“The Mourners” comes from Malamud’s first prize-winning collection, The Magic Barrel (1958), about poor immigrant Jews – grocers, tailors, janitors, cobblers– whose suffering transcends the particular to become universal. Set in a cheap rooming house whose landlord and janitor join forces to evict a poor and aged Jewish tenant, the story ends with Gruber, the landlord, morally transformed by the sight of his tenant’s misery. As compassion replaces cruelty, the two men mourn together. In Malamud’s reading, the sudden descent of grace on the adversaries emerges with poignant force.