The Magic Barrel: Stories
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.
he ate, grateful she had provided an occupation. The waiter brought the drinks. “What’s going on here, a picnic?” “We’re writers,” Olga explained. “The boss will be pleased.” “Never mind him, eat, Mitka.” He ate listlessly. A man had to live. Or did he? When had he felt this low? Probably never. Olga sipped her whiskey. “Eat, it’s self-expression.” He expressed himself by finishing off the salami, also half the loaf of bread, cheese, and herring. His appetite grew. Searching within the bag
“‘Can’t you see that I want to help the children?’ “‘The children have their mother.’ “‘Eva, what’s the matter with you?’ I said. ‘Why do you make sound bad something that I mean it should be good?’ “This she didn’t answer. I felt sick in my stomach, and was coming also a headache so I left. “All night I didn’t sleep, and then all of a sudden I figured out a reason why she was worried. She was worried I would ask for some kind payment except cash. She got the wrong man. Anyway, this made me
as though he would have either to sacrifice his business upon the auction block and live on a pittance thereafter, or put himself at the mercy of some unscrupulous employee who would in the end probably ruin him. But just at the moment of his darkest despair, this Polish refugee, Sobel, appeared one night from the street and begged for work. He was a stocky man, poorly dressed, with a bald head that had once been blond, a severely plain face and soft blue eyes prone to tears over the sad books he
woke without it. But he had awaked depressed, saddened. He thought about Dom getting out of jail and going away God knows where. He wondered whether he would ever meet up with him somewhere, if he took the fifty-five bucks and left. Then he remembered Dom was a pretty old guy now, and he might not know him if they did meet. He thought about life. You never really got what you wanted. No matter how hard you tried you made mistakes and couldn’t get past them. You could never see the sky outside or
inclined towards one another across narrow, cobblestoned streets. In and among the impoverished houses were the wholesale establishments of wealthy Jews, dark holes ending in jeweled interiors, silks and silver of all colors. In the mazed streets wandered the present-day poor, Fidelman among them, oppressed by history, although, he joked to himself, it added years to his life. A white moon shone upon the ghetto, lighting it like dark day. Once he thought he saw a ghost he knew by sight, and