The Assistant Background

The Assistant Background

Bernard Malamud was an American author born on April 26, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York. He came from a humble background considering his parents were both Russian immigrants and he worked everyday as a teacher’s assistant to support his family. After graduating from Erasmus Hall High School, he attended the City College of New York and later enrolled at Columbia University for his master’s degree. He then worked as an English teacher for a number of years before publishing his first novel entitled The Light Sleeper in 1948.

Malamud’s second book, The Assistant, was released in 1957 and tells the story of Morris Bober, the owner of a declining Brooklyn-based grocery store. One day, his store is robbed, leaving him with a business on the brink of closure. However, a young man named Frank comes into Morris’ life and offers to work for free. Together, they transform the previously destitute store into a flourishing business. However, their friendship is tested when Frank repeatedly steals money from the cash register and falls in love with Morris’ daughter.

Upon its publication, The Assistant garnered positive reviews from critics and audiences alike for its moving exploration of complex moral dilemmas. William Goyen of The New York Times states that “the speech of these people is marvelously true and adds another dimension to the story that is told. There is a kind of crystalline hardness over the tautly lyrical descriptions of people and scenes; there is never a literariness or any intrusion of philosophic values in Mr. Malamud's world.” Malamud’s novel ultimately won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction and was listed in TIME’s All-Time 100 Novels.

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