Bernard Malamud's first book of short stories, The Magic Barrel, has been recognized as a classic from the time it appeared in 1958. Malamud had published two novels, The Natural (itself a classic) and The Assistant, but in these thirteen stories he found the voice that eventually made him one of the most admired and beloved American writers of this century.
The stories are set in New York and in Italy (where Malamud's alter ego, the struggling New York Jewish painter 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 Chagallish artistic magic.
In recent years, immigrant writers from around the world have acknowledged the book as a landmark in the literature of migration. Few books of any kind have managed to depict heartbreak with such delight, or such artistry-and it is these qualities that make The Magic Barrel so great and so deeply human a collection.