The Magic Barrel: Stories
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction
Introduction by Jhumpa Lahiri
Bernard Malamud's first book of short stories, The Magic Barrel, has been recognized as a classic from the time it was published in 1959. The stories are set in New York and in Italy (where Malamud's alter ego, the struggleing New York Jewish Painter Arthur Fidelman, roams amid the ruins of old Europe in search of 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 artistic magic.
The Magic Barrel is a book about New York and about the immigrant experience, and it 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.
burned. A kindly shopkeeper dies because he cannot afford to see a doctor. A beautiful woman slips like Eurydice from a man’s loving arms. Embedded in these incidents are mankind’s darkest impulses: dishonesty, doubt, cowardice, hatred. Atrocity lurks behind more quotidian struggles, and the mention of it is no less shocking or upsetting than it was fifty years ago. Consider Isabella’s revelation to Freeman at the end of “The Lady of the Lake” that she is a Holocaust survivor: “‘Buchenwald,’
a single gas heater in the living room but nothing in the bedrooms. They were supposed to have steam heat installed in the building in September, but the contract fell through when the price of steam pipe went up. With two kids, I wouldn’t want to spend the winter in a cold flat.” “Cretins,” muttered Bevilacqua. “The portiere said the heat was perfect.” He consulted his paper. “I have a place in the Prati district, two fine bedrooms and combined living and dining room. Also an American-type
draped over his bony shoulders, and a soggy, old brown hat, as battered as the shoes he had brought in. “I am a business man,” the shoemaker abruptly said to conceal his embarrassment, “so I will explain you right away why I talk to you. I have a girl, my daughter Miriam—she is nineteen—a very nice girl and also so pretty that everybody looks on her when she passes by in the street. She is smart, always with a book, and I thought to myself that a boy like you, an educated boy—I thought maybe you
delivered from the kitchen. Freeman, for a while angered at the runaround on the raft, relaxed with the wine and feeling of freshness after a bath. The mosquitoes behaved long enough for him to say he loved her. Isabella kissed him tenderly, then Ernesto and Giacobbe appeared and rowed him back to Stresa. Monday morning Freeman didn’t know what to do with himself. He awoke with restless memories, enormously potent, many satisfying, some burdensome; they ate him, he ate them. He felt he should
since the war, and Gruber felt confident, in case somebody asked questions, that he could easily justify his dismissal of Kessler as an undesirable tenant. It had occurred to him that Ignace could then slap a cheap coat of paint on the walls and the flat would be let to someone for five dollars more than the old man was paying. That night after supper, Ignace victoriously ascended the stairs and knocked on Kessler’s door. The egg candler opened it, and seeing who stood there, immediately slammed