Bernard Malamud’s Patient Jewish Shopkeepers

Next month, the Library of America will publish the third and final volume of the collected works of the Brooklyn-born Jewish author Bernard Malamud (1914–1986). Vivian Gornick considers Malamud’s oeuvre, and compares it to that of the two figures whose names are often uttered in the same breath as his: Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

Whereas Bellow and Roth took as their subjects the lives of educated Jews emerging into full assimilation, Malamud took for his the homegrown shtetl Jews living in Brooklyn and the Bronx, those paralyzed by poverty and ignorance, and touched them with a kind of literary magic that sent the metaphor diving into depths hitherto unreached. As Bellow said of Malamud after his death, he was an “original of the first rank” in whose work one always heard the “accent of a hard-won . . . emotional truth.”

But if ever a set of characters embodied the patience of the oppressed, it is surely his shopkeeper Jews, for whom Brooklyn or the Bronx is forever Poland, 1932. These are people who are perpetually rolling a rock up a hill: the rock of sheer survival. They neither prosper nor perish; they simply do not die. Their strength and their punishment is knowing how to cling to life under circumstances so extreme that they often seem allegorical. If you asked what they mean by “survive,” they would, in all likelihood, tell you: “Just to make a living.” If you then asked, “What kind of living?,” they might, like Morris Bober in Malamud’s early novel The Assistant, reply, “What kind of living?—a living; you lived.”

Read more at The Nation

More about: American Jewish literature, American Jewry, Bernard Malamud

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security