The Magic Barrel Stories

Bernard Malamud; Introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

232 Pages



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Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

Bernard Malamud's first book of short stories has been recognized as a classic from the time it was published in 1958. The stories are set in New York and in Italy (where Malamud's alter ego, Arthur Fidelman, searches the ruins of old Europe for his artistic patrimony); they tell of egg candlers and shoemakers, matchmakers, and rabbis, in a voice that blends vigorous urban realism, Yiddish idiom, and a dash of Chagallesque artistic magic.

As Jhump Lahiri remarks in her introduction, "What Malamud locates about the immigrant experience—a sense of loss, of struggle, of wanting we cannot have—constitutes the nuts and bolts of dramatic fiction." The Magic Barrel is high point in the modern American short story. Few books of any kind have managed to depict struggle and frustration and heartbreak with such delight, or such artistry.


Praise for The Magic Barrel

"Funny and tragic and true to humanity."—Charles Poore, The New York Times

"In the short story, Malamud achieved an almost psalmlike compression. He has been called the Jewish Hawthorne, but he might just as well be thought a Jewish Chopin, a prose composer of preludes and noctures."—Mark Shechner, Partisan Review

"There are thirteen stories in The Magic Barrel and every one of them is a small, highly individualized work of art. This is the kind of book that calls for not admiration but gratitude."—Richard Sullivan, Chicago Tribune

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

The Magic Barrel
THE FIRST SEVEN YEARSFeld, the shoemaker, was annoyed that his helper, Sobel, was so insensitive to his reverie that he wouldn't for a minute cease his fanatic pounding at the other bench. He gave him a look, but Sobel's bald head was bent over the last as he worked and he didn't notice. The shoemaker shrugged and continued to peer through the partly frosted window at the near-sighted haze of falling February snow. Neither the shifting white blur outside, nor the sudden deep remembrance of the snowy Polish village where he had wasted his youth could turn his thoughts from Max
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  • Bernard Malamud; Introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri

  • 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 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