Detailed Chronology of Bernard Malamud

Last modified on April 28, 2006

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        When Feld had sufficiently recovered from his anguished disappointment to ask why, she answered without hesitation, "Because he's nothing more than a materialist."
        "What means this word?"
        "He has no soul.  He's only interested in things."

"The First Seven Years"

The Life of Bernard Malamud

[1st 7yrs(1914-)] [2nd 7yrs(1922-)] [3rd 7yrs(1929-)] [4th 7yrs(1936-)] [ 5th 7yrs(1943-)]

[6th 7yrs(1950-)] [7th 7yrs(1957-)] [8th 7yrs(1964-)] [9th 7yrs(1971-)] [10th 7yrs(1978-)]

[11th 7yrs(1985-)]

         Just as one of his earliest published stories "The First Seven Years" suggests, it seems to me that the life of Bernard Malamud can best be divided by seven-year phases. The first seven years (1914-1921) is a pre-school formative period. The second (1922-1928) is an elementary school formative and early adolescent period, which ends with the graduation from P.S. 181 in Brooklyn and entering Erasmus Hall High School, meaning that his childhood is over. The third (1929-1935) starts with his mother's death and the beginning of the Great Depression, which must have affected the author tremendously in his view of life as a young would-be writer. Unlike Miriam or Helen Bober, he goes to City College of New York, then an institution for bright but poor students. The fourth (1936-1942) begins with the graduation from CCNY. He is now on his own and, like Frank Alpine, he has to work at odd jobs, later mostly teaching at evening high schools. Malamud, however, goes to graduate school of Columbia and the fourth phase ends with the M.A. in English from it.
         The fifth seven years (1943-1949) begins with a little rush of publications of his short stories in little magazines issued for young people anticipating the end of the War. But after the initial rush, he stops publishing in 1944. He knows that he is not ready yet. It is a period in which he has to learn the art of writing and work on it silently and stoically as a late beginner, perhaps a little like Sobel in "The First Seven Years". (Incidentally, Malamud is thirty in 1944 and Sobel is hired by the shoemaker Feld at the same age.) Besides, he marries Ann de Chiara and a son Paul is born. He now has a family to support teaching evening high school classes. This happy but hard time, however, will be soon over. He finds a new job at the end of the period. He will begin "a new life" in Corvallis, Oregon, as an instructor of Composition at Oregon State University, then called Oregon State College.
         With the beginning of the sixth seven years (1950-1956), he becomes a real writer. In the initial year of 1950, three stories appear in "real" magazines, including "The First Seven Years" in Commentary. His stories are published constantly in the following years; among them is the most famous one "The Magic Barrel" published in Partisan Review in 1954. In addition, his first novel The Natural is published in 1952, which coincides with sad and happy events: the death of his father, a small grocery store owner like Morris Bober, and the birth of his daughter Janna. Although he is now being recognized as a promising writer, his work habit becomes even more stoic than in the fifth phase, at least for the eyes of relaxed Oregonians. He teaches Composition on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and writes secluded in his office on the other days, no visitor permitted except for office hours. Ann is witnessed by his colleague to bring lunch to her husband even on Saturday. His hard work is rewarded at the end of this making-of-a-writer phase in the form of a Partisan Review fellowship; he lives in Rome and travels in Europe, an experience that will eventually bring him to write Fidelman and other "Italian" stories.
         If he becomes a real writer in the sixth phase, Malamud establishes himself as a real good writer in the seventh seven years (1957-1963), which begins with the publication of his second novel The Assistant (1957). He publishes two novels and two collections of stories in this period; the most productive phase, I believe, in terms of both quantity and quality. After his most famed first collection of stories The Magic Barrel in 1958, various literary awards are presented to him both for the second novel and the first collection of stories, including the National Book Award for the latter. His third novel A New Life (1961) follows and the period ends with the publication of his second collection of stories Idiots First (1963). There is, however, a significant change in his and his family's life in the middle of the period. After over ten years living in Corvallis, a period his son Paul remembers as the happiest time of his life, the Malamuds go back to the East in 1961. He has an offer to teach creative writing from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, and joins the faculty of the Division of Language and Literature. He may have felt it necessary to live near his publishers, but, in retrospect, I doubt if it was a right decision for him as a writer for the reasons I will explain later. Anyway, he now gets a more secure and advantageous position than the one he had in the English Department of Oregon State University, where he felt himself "nakedly without a Ph. D."
         The eighth seven years (1964-1970) begins with Malamud being chosen as a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. It is the period in which he solidifies his reputation as an established writer. He reaches the zenith of his fame, and perhaps of his career, with the publication of his fourth novel The Fixer in 1966; a book whose title people in Corvallis would like to believe is named after their downtown bicycle shop "Jim the Fixer". (The shop now turned out to be, believe it or not, an aikido training gym!) Some even believe that Yakov Bok is modeled after its somewhat eccentric owner and many believe that Malamud wrote the book in downtown Hotel Julian. Anyway, it would be certain that the author had the first conception of the novel while he was still in Oregon and had finished writing it after the trip to the Soviet Union in the preceding year of its publication during which he visited its scene Kiev. His fourth novel is an almost immediate success in the climate of the Civil Rights movement and of the mid-Vietnam era foreshadowing political unrest. It wins the Pulitzer Prize and his second National Book Award in the following year; he becomes a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and becomes a visiting lecturer at Harvard University. If he is now at the zenith of his fame and career, this is also a period which foreshadows his decline. Pictures of Fidelman: An Exhibition (1969), a collection of Arthur Fidelman stories in a novel form, is not as successful as his previous books, partly because good stories have already been in the previous collections. Although some of the new stories are very experimental--a characteristic one may find in almost all of his books, they do not seem to work. This period ends with a year of silence in which he is presumably working on his more experimental next novel.
         The ninth seven years (1971-1977) begins with the publication of The Tenants (1971), a novel that deals with Jew-Black relationships and perhaps his most experimental one in form. It receives mixed reviews. Then comes the publication of Rembrandt's Hat (1973), Malamud's fourth collection of short stories, some of which I personally like very much. I would call this period "a writer in crisis" because one can notice in both books increasing bleakness and a sense of imminent trouble or anguish of their narrators and/or characters, who become increasingly sophisticated than in his earlier books. Harry Lesser in the novel cannot finish his novel. Rubin, the sculptor, in "Rembrandt's Hat" cannot produce his work. Anguished Abramowitz in "Talking Horse" finally gets himself free from his master Goldberg (god) but finds his lower half not human but a horse. He in the end "cantered across a grassy soft field into a dark wood, a free centaur" (italics mine). In the interview made by the Fields in 1973, Malamud tells them that he is then working on "another novel--a difficult one, just started." The rest of this period Malamud remains silent, except for the magazine publications of a few excerpts at the end from the new "difficult" novel in progress.
         A year after the tenth seven years (1978-1984) starts, the "difficult" novel, Dubin's Lives (1979), is finally completed and published. Malamud claims that it is his best novel, and many critics agree, but if one expects to find in it Malamud as a "moralist" as in his earlier works, the expectation is betrayed. It is an excruciatingly honest book dealing with the life of an aging biographer William Dubin, whom one cannot help but consider as the author's double. Although Dubin suffers from his affair with a young woman Fanny Bick, he remains in "a dark wood" in the end of the novel. Somehow, however, the completion of the novel has "exorcised" Malamud and his crisis is over. He serves as President of the American P.E.N. (1979-81). After his research on apes at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Pao Alto, California, he completes and publishes his seventh and last novel God's Grace in 1982. I may call it a final glow of his writing. Although it has an impression of rather "hasty" book, one cannot help admiring the author in his late sixties working on the theme of survival of human beings after the thermo-nuclear war. A Japanese Nobel laureate in literature Kenzaburo Oe praises it as a befitting work for a writer with the background of Judaic-Christian Judgement Day mythology. In the following year, the collection of his selected stories The Stories of Bernard Malamud (1983) is published. In this period of "comeback" and gradual wane, Malamud is awarded the Gold Medal for Fiction by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters as well as a couple of other awards. He takes a heart surgery and his health is waning but he begins to write yet another novel. The period ends with the magazine appearance of a couple of experimental stories.
         Just as his eighth novel in progress, the eleventh seven years (1985-) has never been completed. On Tuesday, March 18, 1986, the second year of the eleventh period, Malamud dies of heart attack like Morris Bober, in his Manhattan apartment at the age of seventy-one, "three days before spring" as Philip Roth puts it.
[To be continued]

1st 7 years
1914     Bernard Malamud is born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 26, the elder of 
age 0      the two sons of Mendel "Max" and Bertha (Fidelman) Malamud.



1917     Brother, Eugene Malamud, is born.(My Father Is a Book)



1920     Goes to grammar school in Brooklyn.
 6       During the grammar school years, goes to movie houses and after being at 
           pictures, recounts "their plots to school friends who would listen at 
           dreadfully long length."  Charlie Chaplin's comedy "haunted my [Malamud's] 
           soul." (Long Work, Short Life)


2nd 7 years
1922     Enters P.S. 181 in the 3rd grade as Malamud family moves to Flatbush section of
 8         Brooklyn.(My Father Is a Book)


1924     Writes "a story about a ship lost in the Sargasso Sea." (Long Work, Short Life)
10       "In grammar school, where I lived in a state of self-enhancing discovery, 
           I turned school assignments into stories. Once I married off Roger 
           Williams of Rhode Island to an Indian maiden, mainly because I had worked
           up an early feeling for the romantic." (Long Work, Short Life)




1928     Graduates from grammar school in Brooklyn at P.S. 181.
14       Attends Erasmus Hall High School.

3rd 7 years
1929     Bertha Fidelman Malamud, Mother, dies in May.(My Father Is a Book)
15       Max, "a poor grocer," eventually remarried.



1932     Graduates from Erasmus Hall High School.
18       Attends City College of New York; receives bachelor's degree in 1936.




4th 7 years
1936     B.A., City College of New York
1936-37  Works "a year at $4.50 a day as a teacher-in-training in a high school in 
22-23      Brooklyn." (Long Work, Short Life)

1937-38  Attends Columbia University "on a government loan." (Long Work, Short Life)

1938     Unemployed; odd jobs, including tutoring German refugees in English.
24         (My Father Is a Book)

1939     First teaching position, Lafayette High School, Brooklyn.
25         (My Father Is a Book)

1940     Works as clerk in Bureau of Census, Washington, D.C. (spring-September).
26         Begins "to write seriously on company time" after lunchtime. (Long Work, 
           Short Life)
         Writes "Armistice" in Washington.
         Publishes first nonfiction vignettes in Washington Post.
         Returns to teach at Erasmus Hall High School.  Starts writing during the day.
           (My Father Is a Book)

1940-48  Starts to teach evening classes at Erasmus Hall High School in September.
1940-49  Teaches English in New York City evening high schools

1941     Begins writing short stories.

1942     Receives Master's degree from Columbia University.
28         M.A., Columbia University; thesis on Hardy's The Dynasts:
           Thomas Hardy's Reputation as a Poet in American Periodicals
         Writes "Spring Rain."  Probably, starts to write a novel, The Light Sleeper, 
           which is eventually completed but destroyed.  "It was completed but not 
           sold.  Later, I burned it one night in Oregon because I felt I could do 
           better. My son, who was about 4 at that time, watched me burning the book."  
           (Long Work, Short Life)

5th 7 years
1943     Publishes first stories: "Benefit Performance" in Threshold and
29       "The Place Is Different Now" in American Preface. 
         Writes "The Grocery Store."
         Probably around this time meets Ann de Chiara, "a warm, pretty young woman" 
           at a party. "I was told she was of Italian descent and lived in a hotel 
           with her mother and stepfather, who was a musician." (Long Work, Short 
1943/02  "Benefit Performance," Threshold.
1943/Sp  "The Place Is Different Now," American Preface.
1943/08  "Steady Customer," New Threshold.
1943/11  "The Literary Life of Laban Goldman," Assembly.


1945     Marries to Ann de Chiara on November 6 and lives in "a small walk-up flat 
31         on King Street," in Greenwich Village.  (Long Work, Short Life)


1947     Son, Paul [Francis Malamud], is born in October.(My Father Is a Book)

1948     Completes first novel; eventually burns it.(My Father Is a Book)
1948-49  Teaches evening classes at Harlem Evening High School.

1949     Teaches at Chelsea Vocational High School and Harlem Evening High School.  
35       Moves to Corvallis, Oregon, to join faculty of Oregon State College.
1949-61  Teaches at Oregon State College, Corvallis, Oregon.
35-47    Oregon State University, Corvallis, Department of English,
         instructor to associate professor

6th 7 years
1950     Stories appear in Harper's Bazaar, Partisan Review, Commentary.
1950/03  "Cost of Living," Harper's Bazaar.
1950/09  "The Prison," Commentary.
1950/09  "The First Seven Years," Partisan Review.

1951     Burns The Light Sleeper around this time.  (cf. 1942)
1951/04  "The Death of Me," World Review.
1951/04  "The Bill," Commentary.
1951/11  "An Apology," Commentary.

1952     The Natural is published.  ["Max, Father, dies just after the publication" 
38         appears to be wrong according to My Father Is a Book.]
         Daughter, Janna [Ellen Malamud], is born in January.
         Writes "A Confession of Murder," the first section of the abandoned novel
           The Man Nobody Could Lift. 
1952/07  "The Loan," Commentary.

1953     Writes "Riding Pants."
1953/01  "Girl of My Dreams," American Mercury.

1954     Father, Mendel "Max" Malamud, dies in March.(My Father Is a Book)
1954/11  "The Magic Barrel," Partisan Review.

1955     Publishes, under pen name Peter Lumm, a children's novel, Kim of Korea, 
41         coauthered with Faith Norris, an Oregon State colleague.
1955/01  "The Mourners," Discovery.
1955/12  "Angel Levin," Commentary.

1956     Malamud receives a Partisan Review-Rockefeller Foundation grant, which 
42         coincides with a sabbatical leave from Oregon State; leaves in late
           August for Italy with his family and returns in the next summer.
1956-57  Lives in Rome and visits Austria and France.  Writes stories, some of which 
42-43      will be collected in The Magic Barrel.
1956/09  "A Summer's Reading," New Yorker; "Take Pity," America.

7th 7 years
1957     The Assistant is published.  Writes "The Elevator" in Italy.
43       Allowed to teach a lower division Literature course at Oregon State.

1958     The Magic Barrel is published. 
44       Malamud receives the Rosenthal Foundation Award of the National Institute of 
           Arts and Letters for The Assistant.
         Receives Daroff Memorial Fiction Award of the Jewish Book Council of America 
           for The Assistant.
         Rockefeller grant.  Spends summer at Yaddo.(My Father Is a Book)
         "The Lady of the Lake," first published in The Magic Barrel.
1958/Sp  "The Last Mohican," Partisan Review.
1958/05  "Behold the Key," Commentary.

1959     Receives the National Book Award for The Magic Barrel.
45       Receives a Ford Foundation Fellowship in humanities and the arts.
1959/Wi  "The Maid's Shoes," Partisan Review.


1961     Teaches creative writing in summer school at Harvard.
47       Joins the faculty of Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont.
         Bennington (Vt.) College, Division of Language and Literature
         A New Life is published.
1961/08  "Thanks for Nothing," excerpt from A New Life, Esquire.
1961/12  "Idiots First," Commentary.

1962/Wi  "Still Life," Partisan Review.

1963     Idiots First is published.  
49       Travels in England and Italy.
1963/02  "Suppose a Wedding," New Statesman.
1963/04  "The Jewbird," Reporter.
1963/05  "Life is Better Than Death," Esquire.
1963/07  "Black is My Favorite Color," Reporter.
1963/08  "Naked Nude," Playboy.
1963/09  "The Refugee," Saturday Evening Post.
1963/09  "Choice of Profession," Commentary.

8th 7 years
1964     Becomes a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

1965     Travels in the Soviet Union, France, and Spain.

1966     The Fixer is published.
52       Moves to Cambridge and becomes a visiting lecturer at Harvard University.
1966-68  Visiting lecturer at Harvard University.

1967     Wins the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for The Fixer.
53       Becomes a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
         Invited to Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, and reads two stories 
           on June 19: "The First Seven Year" and "The Jewbird."
         "A Long Ticket for Isaac" [an earlier version of "Idiots First"], Creative 
           Writing and Rewriting: Contemporary American Novelist at Work, ed. by 
           John Kuehl, is published. 

1968     Visits Israel in March.
1968/04  "Man in the Drawer," Atlantic.
1968/09  "A Pimp's Revenge," Playboy.
1968/11  "My Son the Murderer," Esquire.
1968/12  "Pictures of Fidelman," Atlantic.
1968/12  "An Exorcism," Harper's.

1969     Pictures of Fidelman: An Exhibition is published.
55       Moves to Old Bennington.  Begins spending winters in Manhattan.
           (My Father Is a Book)
         "Glass Blower of Venice," first published in Pictures of Fidelman.


9th 7 years
1971     The Tenants is published.  
57       Lives in London from late autumn to following spring.(My Father Is a Book)

1972/02  "God's Wrath," Atlantic.
1972/08  "Talking Horse," Atlantic.
1972/08  "The Letter," Esquire.
1972/12  "The Silver Crown," Playboy.

1973     Rembrandt's Hat is published.
1973/02  "Notes from a Lady at a Dinner Party," Harper's.
1973/03  "In Retirement," Atlantic.
1973/03  "Rembrandt's Hat," New Yorker.

1974     Eugene Malamud, brother, dies.(My Father Is a Book)


1976     Receives the Jewish Heritage Award.

1977/04  "Dubin's Lives: Part One," New Yorker.
1977/04  "Dubin's Lives: Part Two," New Yorker.
1977/12  "Abhorrent Green Slippery City" [Excerpt from Dubin's Lives], Playboy.

10th 7 years
1978/01  "Home Is the Hero" [Excerpt from Dubin's Lives ], Atlantic.

1979     Receives the Governor's Award from the Vermont Council on the Arts.
65       Dubin's Lives is published.
1979-81  Serves as President of the American P.E.N.

1980/01  "A Wig," Atlantic.

1981     Receives the Brandeis Creative Arts Award.
67       Spends winter as fellow in Pao Alto, California.(My Father Is a Book)
1981-82  Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 
           Pao Alto, California

1982     God's Grace is published.
68       Mother-in-law, Ida Barbieri, dies.(My Father Is a Book)
         Takes a heart surgery and has subsequent stroke.

1983     Awarded the Gold Medal for Fiction by the American Academy and Institute of
69         Arts and Letters.
         Begins to make notes for The People.
         The Stories of Bernard Malamud is published.
1983/08  "The Model," Atlantic.

1984/07  "Alma Redeemed," Commentary.
1984/Fa  "In Kew Garden," Partisan Review.

11th 7 years
1985/01  "Zora's Noise," Gentlemen's Quarterly [GQ].
1985/05  "A Lost Grave," Esquire.

1986     Malamud dies of heart attack on March 18 at his Manhattan apartment.  
(72)     He is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1989     The People and Uncollected Stories is posthumously published.

1997     The Complete Stories is published.

2006     My Father Is a Book, a memoir by daughter Janna Malamud Smith, is published.

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