Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center
Bern Malamud: An Instinctive Friendship
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Neither Bern nor Ann - born a Catholic - practiced religion by going to synagogue or church. Nor can I remember ever having discussed religion with Bern. For a while, their children - like ours - attended the Unitarian Fellowship. Regardless, he never forgot his heritage; being Jewish. This identity was stone-strong and his writing reflects his outlook, which was more ingrained than merely trained.

Several years ago during a phone conversation with Paul Malamud, I surprised him by saying I had never read a critic's considering Bern a Freudian writer. Although he was not dedicated to the psychologist, he certainly was influenced by him. Bern was an adolescent and a college student when Freud was still being discovered, discussed, and taught in America. Bern read Freud and knew all about him, and his writing often included dream sequences and his conversations often had references to Freud - also Jewish.

Credit: The Oregon Stater, 1996.
Credit: The Oregon Stater, 1996.
"Malamud: A Novelist Finds his Voice at Oregon State." Tom Bennett. OSU Oregon Stater, v.80 n.3 p.12. June 1996

Possibly related to Bern's interest in Freud, my one uneasiness with Bern's writing is his occasionally dealing with sexual episodes. Although they are not prolonged, to me they are self-consciously included as if he as a contemporary writer felt obligated and determined to include them. Consequently they make his style occasionally falter.

Bern read constantly. He was well aware of the contemporory fiction writers - observing what they were up to in content, style and intent. Also he had particularly read in depth the novels of the German Thomas Mann and the Russian greats. I believe he said, possibly to me, that Dostoevsky had the greatest influence on him.