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.
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The Magic Barrel
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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