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“[The tea] tasted bitter and he blamed existence.” Is it necessary to write of the Old World’s wry melancholy after this sentence, from Malamud’s epic account of a shtetl Jew’s moral awakening after a false accusation of blood libel? (“Who invented my life?” goes another immortal line.) Keep your sybaritic Rothian heat, your Bellovian prolixity and self-scratching cerebralism, and give me the wilted flesh (and blood), the bone-rattling cold, the granite-like prose of a Malamud novel. Malamud is slipping from this sacred Jewish triumvirate, and unjustly so: As The Fixer reminds us, Roth and Bellow are mortal; Malamud is the Bible.





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