The Magic Barrel was chosen out of all the American fiction of its year to receive the National Book Award of 1959 - an honour which had only once before been accorded to a book of short stories, those of William Faulkner. Malamud's great gifts as a writer are his humour, his profound concern for all human life and his ability to transmute common things and people into a strange poetry - as the New York Herald Tribune said 'He is master of an alchemy whereby the grossest reality is converted to the most imaginative uses. He transcribes everyday life and yet the result glows with lights never seen on land or sea.'
Bernard Malamud, one of America's most important novelists and short-story writers, was born in Brooklyn in 1914. He took his B.A. degree at the City College of New York and his M.A. at Colombia University. From 1940 to 1949 he taught in various New York schools, and then joined the staff of Oregon State University, where he stayed until 1961. Thereafter, he taught at Bennington State College, Vermont. His remarkable, and uncharacteristic first novel, The Natural, appeared in 1952. Malamud received international acclaim with the publication of The Assistant (1957, winner of the Rosenthal Award and the Daroff Memorial Award). His other works include The Magic Barrel (1958, winner of the National Book Award), Idiots First (1963, short stories), The Fixer (1966, winner of a second National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize), Pictures of Fidelman (1969), The Tenants (1971), Rembrandt's Hat (1973, short stories), Dubin's Lives (1979) and God's Grace (1982). Bernard Malamud was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, USA, in 1964, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1967, and won a major Italian award, the Premio Mondello, in 1985. Benard Malamud died in 1986.