A New Life A Novel

Bernard Malamud; Introduction by Jonathan Lethem

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

384 Pages



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In A New Life, Bernard Malamud—generally thought of as a distinctly New York writer—took on the American myth of the West as a place of personal reinvention. When Sy Levin, a high school teacher beset by alcohol and bad decisions, leaves the city for the Pacific Northwest to start over, he thus conjures a vision of the extraordinary new life awaiting him there: "He imagined the pioneers in covered wagons entering this valley for the first time . . . Although he had lived little in nature Levin had always loved it, and the sense of having done the right thing in leaving New York was renewed in him." Soon after his arrival at Cascadia College, however, Levin realizes he has been taken in by a mirage. The failures pile up anew, and Levin finds himself back where he started—and little the wiser for it. A New Life—as Jonathan Lethem's introduction makes clear—is Malamud at his best: with his belief in luck and new beginnings, Sy Levin embodies the thwarted yearning for transcendence that is at the heart of all Malamud's work.


Praise for A New Life

"In the end, A New Life commits itself, with beautiful discomfort, to being a love story, full of private feeling made into the most passionate sort of art . . . His funniest, and most embracing [novel] . . . An underrated masterpiece."—Jonathan Lethem, from the Introduction

"Is he an American Master? Of course. Malamud not only wrote in the American language, he augmented it with fresh plasticity, he shaped our English into startling new configurations."—Cynthia Ozick

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Read an Excerpt

A New Life
S. Levin, formerly a drunkard, after a long and tiring transcontinental journey, got off the train at Marathon, Cascadia, toward evening of the last Sunday in August, 1950. Bearded, fatigued, lonely, Levin set down a valise and suitcase and looked around in a strange land for welcome. The small station area--like dozens he had seen en route--after a moment's activity, was as good as deserted, and Levin after searching around here and there, in disappointment was considering calling a taxi, when a man and woman in sports clothes appeared at the station. They stared at Levin--the man
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  • Bernard Malamud; Introduction by Jonathan Lethem

  • Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) published eight novels, including The Fixer, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The Magic Barrel, a collection of his short stories, also won the National Book Award. Born in Brooklyn, Malamud was a beloved teacher for many years at Bennington College in Vermont.
  • Bernard Malamud Copyright Seymour Linden