Bernard Malamud Short Stories

Bernard Malamud Short Stories
Bernard Malamud Short Stories

Bernard Malamud is one of the best known Jewish writers. His debut short story collection, The Magic Barrel, won the National Book Award For Fiction. His collected stories are available in The Complete Stories, linked to below, which has 55 stories spanning over 40 years. Here are some Bernard Malamud short stories to check out. See also:

Bernard Malamud Short Stories

“The Jewbird”

The Cohen family of Harry, Edie and Maurie are at the supper table. A skinny bird flies in through the open window right onto the table. To their surprise, it’s a talking bird and it’s Jewish. It flew in seeking refuge from anti-semitic birds. (Summary)

Read “The Jewbird”

“The First Seven Years”

Feld is a shoemaker who wants his daughter, Miriam, to marry Max, a young man pursuing his education. After Feld tries to set them up, his assistant, Sobel, quits. (Summary)

Read here


Morris Lieberman owns a small store in Brooklyn. He listens to the news everyday about the Nazis and the battles between the German and French armies. He has terrible memories from his youth of Jewish persecution. His son worries about the effect all the bad news has on him. One of his suppliers, Gus, always takes jabs at Morris.

This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Stories(14% in)

“Spring Rain”

George Fisher lies awake thinking about an accident he saw earlier. A man was hit and killed by car. He was stoic during his final minutes of life. George has sleepless nights sometimes where he imagines himself saying things he doesn’t actually say to people.

This story can also be read in the preview of The Complete Stories(22% in)

“The Grocery Store”

Sam and Ida Kaplan sit in the back of their grocery store with Rosen, a supplier. He reads through a list of products and prices. Sam is distracted. He’s been running the store nineteen years and they’re barely making enough to cover their expenses.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Complete Stories(29% in)

“Benefit Performance”

Maurice Rosenfeld, an actor, returns to his small apartment where he lives with his wife and grown daughter. His wife is out working, so he fixes himself something to eat. His daughter’s boyfriend, Ephraim, a plumber, is coming over.

This story can be also be read in the above preview of The Complete Stories(40% in)

“The Place is Different Now”

Wally Mulane is out of the hospital and back in his old neighborhood, looking for a place to sleep. He tries to avoid the police and look for familiar faces. He’s not comfortable asking for help from strangers. He has a reputation for drinking.

This story can also be read in the preview of The Complete Stories(49% in)

“Steady Customer”

The waitresses at Mr. Mollendorf’s diner are crying. A fellow waitress, Eileen, died during a gallbladder operation. She was only twenty-eight. They try to continue with their work, but no one wants to take over Eileen’s tables. The waitresses realize that Eileen’s steady customer is going to come in and someone is going to have to tell him.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Complete Stories(63% in)

“The Literary Life of Laban Goldman”

Laban Goldman takes night school classes. He’s proud that another one of his letters has been printed in the paper, and can’t wait to read it to the class. His wife wants to go out some evenings, but Laban won’t miss his classes.

This story can be read in the above preview of The Complete Stories(72% in)

Bernard Malamud Short Stories, Cont’d

“Black is My Favorite Color”

The narrator eats his lunch in the kitchen while his cleaning lady, Charity, eats in the bathroom. He owns a liquor store. He’s had lots of dealings with black people, mostly business related. He likes black people but his interactions with them don’t always go the way he wants.

“Behold the Key”

Carl and Norma go to Italy with their two young children. Carl wants to do research for his Ph.D. after being turned down for a scholarship. Norma was uncertain about making the trip with the kids and their small savings. Carl persuaded her to take the chance and go. Now, in Italy, they’re staying in inadequate accommodations while Carl looks for a furnished flat in their price range.

“A Choice of Profession”

After finding out his wife was cheating on him, Cronin moved to California to take up teaching. He hoped this would bring him peace, but he soon becomes bored of it. He spends most of his time alone. In the spring term, a new student appears in his class—attentive to the material and also to him, attractive and a little older than most. He talks to Mary Lou a bit and decides to ask her out.

“The Death of Me”

Marcus became a clothier later in life. His store does well but he doesn’t make as much money as he could due to his ill health. He had to hire an assistant tailor and a presser to handle the workload. The tailor, Emilio, and the presser, Josip, develop a violent dislike for each other. They regularly get into heated arguments which affects the business. Marcus doesn’t know what to do about it.

“The German Refugee”

Oskar Gassner is a fifty-year-old German refugee in America in 1939. He has been hired by a university to give a lecture. He engages the services of a young tutor to improve his English and write his speech. He is discouraged by the language barrier; his motivation for his studies falters.

“The German Refugee”

“The Girl of My Dreams”

Mitka burns the manuscript of his novel, along with letters to agents and rejection forms. He had sent it out for a year and a half without success. His writing style isn’t accessible enough. He’s vowed not to write again. His landlord, Mrs. Lutz, is also a writer and tries to associate with him. He reads a short story that gets his attention.

“Idiots First”

Mendel wakes up at supper time. He’s in pain and gets himself together slowly. He puts what money he has in his pocket. He helps his adult son, Isaac, who’s mentally much younger, put on his coat. They head for a pawnshop. Mendel needs thirty-five more dollars and he must have it tonight.

Read “Idiots First”

“Life is Better Than Death”

Etta regularly visits the grave of her deceased husband, Armando. He’s been dead over a year. There’s a man at a nearby grave. He starts a conversation with Etta. His wife is dead. He tells her how it happened. Later she tells him how her husband died.

Bernard Malamud Short Stories, Cont’d

“The Magic Barrel”

Leo Finkle is a rabbinical student, soon to be ordained. He’s informed that marriage would improve his prospects for getting a congregation. He engages the services of Salzman, a marriage broker. He calls on Leo and presents him with six prospects. Leo isn’t enthusiastic about meeting any of them. Disappointed in his options, and with some doubts about the matchmaking business, he dismisses Salzman.

Read “The Magic Barrel”

“The Mourners”

Kessler is on social security and lives alone in a cheap tenement. He would still be working but for his quarrelsome nature. He walked out on his family thirty years ago. He has no friends and doesn’t speak to his neighbors. One day an argument erupts between Kessler and the janitor, Ignace, over the way he disposes of his garbage. Ignace takes the matter to the landlord, Gruber.

Read “The Mourners”

“The Prison”

Tommy’s life is a terrible bore. He works long hours for little profit and doesn’t care for his wife. Years ago he quit vocational school and got in with the wrong crowd. He was involved in a robbery. The family’s landlord was able to arrange a break from his bad associates. His father started arranging a marriage to Rosa and a business. Tommy went to Texas to escape the situation. When he came back to town, things picked right up where they left off.

Read “The Prison”

“Angel Levine”

Manischewitz is a fifty-one-year old tailor whose life suddenly goes bad. He loses his business, his children, his health and his wife becomes ill as well. One day an unannounced visitor appears in his living room. The man makes a surprising claim about his origin.

Read “Angel Levine”

I’ll keep adding Bernard Malamud short stories as I find more.