Bernard Malamud Revisited: Portrait of the Post-Holocaust Jewish Hero in the Fixer


Key words: Post-Holocaust American Fiction, Bernard Malamud, Jewish Heroism, Jewish Suffering, Jew-the-victim Mentality, SchlemielINTRODUCTION



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Key words: Post-Holocaust American Fiction, Bernard Malamud, Jewish Heroism, Jewish Suffering, Jew-the-victim Mentality, Schlemiel
INTRODUCTION
World War II was an unprecedented event in history concerning both the horrendous numbers of deaths and the use of weapons of mass destruction. In material terms, however, the war left America rich, and thus this war, paradoxically, became known as the Good War among the Americans (Grant 325). As a result of the postwar American economic boom, there was a feeling of assertiveness about how the country was the best that had ever existed in the world, the number one place in God’s universe (Yannella
57). Nevertheless, this tranquility was merely on the surface, and the s brought challenges to many cultural and political assumptions of America. The decade was labeled one of Tumult and Change and its Vietnam generation came to be called the haunted generation (Grant In such condition, Jewish Americans and postwar Jewish immigrants received considerable sympathy and attention in the US. due to the Holocaust publicity, and thus the peri- odizing term “post-Holocaust” became more preferred and frequent than its neutral counterpart postwar, especially among the Jews.
The golden age of Jewish American fiction with its three leading figures, Bellow, Malamud, and Roth, arrived on the scene at this time. Within the whole structure of Jewish fiction in postwar America two strands were dominant and in tension the one that remembered, celebrated, and romanticized old world Judaism, that of Eastern Europe, the
shtetl,” and the one that represented Jews as quintessential Published by Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD. Copyright (c) the authors. This is an open access article under CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.8n.6p.34
Americans” (Goffman). In this struggle between tradition and assimilationism, Malamud took sides with the former. Unlike Roth who believed freedom of the artist must be given primacy, and Jewish writers had to breakout of the shackles of history and identity Malamud strongly held that without responsibility, without obligation, there can be no freedom (Miller. Responsibility toward Jewish people and their history concerned Malamud and his writing the most however, it is through a journey of suffering that his characters come to such understanding.
Malamud’s stories are peopled with suffering and victimized Jews whose sorrow penetrates the bone of the reader. The way Malamud depicts suffering suggests the place of Jews in history as the only people who have suffered. It associates the reader mainly with the traumatized Jew and the alleged Holocaust. That is the main reason why his work is much liable to be, as Roth puts it, the vehicles of ethnic propaganda (qtd. in Miller. Nevertheless, this painful process does not weaken his protagonists. They resist and through this resistance they progress from indifference toward the acceptance and acknowledgement of their Jewish identities and tradition. In such manner, they represent heroes who belong to a specific people and timely fora specific era.
Throughout his career, Malamud has consistently declared that he is a universal writer who writes for all men, and that he is not out to prove anything, about any particular people or race. He holds that he has used Jewish characters and themes merely as the means to an end, and mainly


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