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The Assistant

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  5,580 ratings  ·  245 reviews
Bernard Malamud’s second novel, originally published in 1957, is the story of Morris Bober, a grocer in postwar Brooklyn, who “wants better” for himself and his family. First two robbers appear and hold him up; then things take a turn for the better when broken-nosed Frank Alpine becomes his assistant. But there are complications: Frank, whose reaction to Jews is ambivalen ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published July 7th 2003 by Farrar Straus and Giroux (first published 1957)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Fewlas
Una volta una persona cara (molto cara, visto che ne ero innamorata) mi scrisse in una lettera una cosa che mi impressionò moltissimo. Riuscì a descrivermi come si sentiva così bene che per me fu quasi una folgorazione. Si sentiva come se tutto ciò che stava al suo interno stesse lentamente uscendo fuori da lui attraverso un piccolo forellino che disgraziatamente non riusciva a rintracciare in nessuna parte del suo corpo. Tutto quanto se ne andava: le cose belle e le cose brutte; le amarezze, la ...more
Cristina
Dec 15, 2014 Cristina rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cristina by: Roberto
Una partita a domino.
Morris mette la prima tessera, Frank aggiunge la sua, via che si procede lentamente e inesorabilmente fino a terminarle. Lentamente e inesorabilmente come una lunga agonia.
L'ho definito claustrofobico, e per me era la parola giusta a metà del libro, via via questa claustrofobia si è trasformata in voce del verbo soffocare coniugata in tutte le sue forme.
Per questo motivo solo 3 stelline ad un romanzo che ne merita 5 con la lode, per quell'imprescindibile mio bisogno di trov
...more
Michael
There has been a bit of buzz about Malamud lately mostly due to his daughter’s recently published memoir, My Father Is a Book. Malamud is most often described as the under appreciated, overlooked middle child between the great Jewish-American novelists of the last century, Bellow and Roth. I can’t speak to that claim.

The Assistant is one of Malamud’s most acclaimed books and I have had it on my bookshelf for over a year. I can’t really remember why I bought it other than I had heard a bit about
...more
Arwen56
Jun 25, 2014 Arwen56 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Arwen56 by: Fewlas
Questo romanzo è la storia di una metamorfosi. Infatti, lentamente, ma inesorabilmente, Frank Alpine, il commesso, si trasforma in Morris Bober, il proprietario del disastrato negozio di alimentari in cui si svolge l’azione, poco dopo la fine della seconda guerra mondiale.

Ed è proprio Morris Bober che, a dispetto del suo cognome che significa “qualcosa che vale poco”, giganteggia in questa narrazione. La sua dignità e la sua voce, benché sommessa, sono la luce che illumina un cammino preciso ed
...more
Gabriele
...fatto sta che io tale Bernard Malamud non l'avevo ancora incrociato sulla mia impervia strada di lettore che, per carità, qualche libro l'ho letto anche io dello sterminato panorama americano del '900 (gente, leggete Steinbeck! Leggete Barth! Leggete Carver! E Yates! Leggete Roth-DeLillo-e tutto il resto!), ma lui proprio non l'avevo neanche sentito. E quando un autore neppure l'ho sentito nominare, mi è naturale storcere un po' il naso davanti alle acclamazioni di giubilo e di capolavoro, un ...more
Stela
Jun 04, 2014 Stela rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stela by: Fewlas

The Disciple and the Jew

When Bernard Malamud explained his famous “All men are Jews” by the following: "I think it is an understandable statement and a metaphoric way of indicating how history, sooner or later treats all men." He seemed to suggest that Jewishness is not only a question of religion, but some sort of moral norm, that is, a synonym of redemption by suffering that marks mankind’s path to maturity.

Indeed, The Assistant seems to focus less on cultural and religious differences and mor
...more
Vale
Jul 19, 2014 Vale rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Vale by: Fewlas
Ho letto gran parte di questo libro durante un lungo viaggio in treno. Amo questo tipo di viaggio perché rende la lettura carica di altre immagini. Così non potrò mai dimenticare che dopo aver letto di un fiore intagliato nel legno ritrovato nel bidone della spazzatura, nella tristezza ho alzato gli occhi e ho visto la luce del sole che si rifletteva nel mare e lo illuminava. Un viaggio reale, uno letterario ed anche uno interiore.
La storia è veramente bella e la voce di Malamud è antica, sa di
...more
Barry Pierce (*ON HIATUS*)
A interesting look at different cultures in post-WWII New York. I liked this novel overall. I feel that the message is more important than the plot however. (Also the very last paragraph is somewhat... unexpected) It's an interesting character study of the Jewish shopkeeper and his Italian "assistant". I can see why it's on the TIME 100 list and I really do want to read more Malamud, I think I'll like him.
atla
When I picked this up, I had somehow gotten under the impression that The Assistant won the National Book Award in the 50's. I've only today learned that it was actually Malamud's later novel, The Fixer, that won the award (as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) in 1967. C'est la vie.

I wish I could decide how I feel about this novel, which portrays the lives of first and second generation Jewish immigrants in America in the 1950's. I found Malamud's writing style easy to adjust to and pleasa
...more
Bruno
Cosa si può desiderare di più da un libro? Lo definirei un romanzo - quasi - perfetto. Il 'quasi' è un giudizio del tutto soggettivo, dovuto al finale che mi ha lasciato piuttosto spiazzato e interdetto. Ciò non toglie che lo consiglio a tutti e non vedo l'ora di leggere altro di Malamud.
James
Malamud conjures up a time and place in desperate want of a fable, and delivers one teased tantalizingly with self-challenging cynicism. The duel between expectation—ours of the characters, theirs of themselves and each other—and reality that makes up the bulk of the narrative is aided immensely by Malamud's vivid characterization of Morris Bober, and the way he charmingly allows Morris's circular slang and mangled Yiddish cadence to infect the novel's narrative voice ("Against words the liquor ...more
Nood-Lesse
Ogni occhiata perduta, per uno che viveva di sguardi, era una perdita irrimediabile


Uno legge un libro e trova in esso ciò che desidera

Lo dice Malamud nella bella intervista che fa da appendice al libro. Io non so quanti di voi troveranno ciò che desiderano in questo libro. Si può desiderare di sentirsi addosso un'ansia strisciante? Di sentirsi respinti e allo stesso tempo attratti dalle pagine che si sta leggendo?
Questo libro è una partita a Snake. Il serpente riempie lo schermo e anche se sappi
...more
Michael Scott
The Assistant, my first read from Malamud's oeuvre, revolves around the premise that redemption and failure are two inseparable parts of the commoner's life. This premise is conveyed through the tragic story of three main characters, Morris Bober, the owner of a grocery, Helen, his daughter, and Frank Alpine, the thug-hero of the plot and assistant of Morris. Cornered by poverty, the characters try in turn to redeem themselves from past mistakes, but life keeps letting them down. This touching p ...more
Jennifer
Tired of dragging myself around my small local library for hours, not finding what I wanted to read, I decided to challenge myself by reading a number of the Best 100 books by Time, Modern Library, etc. Some books (ahem, Ulysses - sorry Bloomians, but the man was just showing off) have been torture, but with some it has been like discovering pearls in an oyster. The Assistant by Bernard Malamud is one of those pearls.

Summaries I have seen say it a book about a Jewish grocer in the fifties and th
...more
Priti
"But tell me why it is that the Jews suffer so damn much, Morris? It seems to me that they like to suffer, don't they?" This is a question raised in the book and I wanted to raise my own “why there is so much suffering in the book and why was I unable to put the damn thing away?”
After I finished I looked up the internet to see the face of the man who had penned this intense and moving human story. In one of his older pics he looked a little like Mahatma Gandhi, with a little more hair of course
...more
Marc
I read 'The Natural' long ago and enjoyed it but found it disturbing. Malamud was a little dense for my pop-fiction palette. Last year I read his complete collected stories and discovered a virtuoso wordsmith. In short, the stories blew me away. I was excited when my girlfriend gave me 'The Assistant' but concerned that an entire novel of his intricately knitted prose might be better than I could appreciate.
This is a great novel . . . A GREAT NOVEL! Not a charcter underwritten in the batch, not
...more
Tony
THE ASSISTANT. (1957). Bernard Malamud. ****.
This was the author’s second novel, and another example of his excellent ability to tell a simple story that carries a heavy meaning. It is set in Brooklyn, and features a Jewish grocery store owner who is eking by on what his business brings in. One day, he is held up at gunpoint by two young men wearing masks. In a futile attempt at resistance, he is pistol whipped and left on the floor of his shop. The thieves get away with only a few dollars. Late
...more
James
Despite the simplicity of the story I find it very difficult to summarize. Which either is a function of the multi layered depth the author managed to infuse into his story or it's an indication of how weirdly dated it all is. An immigrant grocer watches his business fail bit by bit consigning his and his wife and daughters prospects to ashes, after a brutal robbery a weirdly insistent man shows up forcing his help and more on the family. Glad I read it just not sure how I feel about it at all.
Cassandra
Mar 30, 2010 Cassandra rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cassandra by: Top 100 Literature List
The basic idea is this: Morris (a Jew) owns a shitty little grocery but it mostly pays the bills. He's eking out a living for his family until he gets held up. Then this random bum, Frank, shows up and turns the store around. Frank loves Morris' daughter, Helen. A lot. Like a lot, a lot.

As a rule, I love to see people try. I think it may be because I'm such a goal-oriented person. I love to see how other people make things happen, or turn things around, or how things get set into motion. I love
...more
Charlaralotte
Well, I have to say that I probably did not grasp the importance of this book. It felt like it was a quite important story, a story that spoke about redemption, Judaism, the immigrant experience, the process of Americanization, the American Dream, the whole shebang.

Mostly I was really depressed by the description of the family and their constrained life that depends entirely on the survival of their grocery store. This was a bit too close to home & I think after identifying strongly with the
...more
Jose
The book, "The Assistant", by Bernard Malamud revolves around the main character Morris Bober. Bober, is a immigrant from Russia and came to the United States for a better lfe.. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Ida who he meet when he got here in New York. Bober and his wike Ida own a grocery store but, are losing clients since, a competition grocery just opened across the street.

The story starts off with Bober's grocery shop getting robbed. Two men came in to the store hit Bober in
...more
emi Bevacqua
I read this because it was on the 2005 Times list of All-Time Best 100 Novels. It's supposed to be the triumph of good over evil, but it's more like the good suffer and die, and so do the evil. This story written by Bernard Malamud in 1957 is about a sad Jewish family in Brooklyn: Morris and Ida Bober run a small crappy grocery store and their daughter Helen is 25 and well on her way to spinsterhood. The store is held up by two hoodlums, Morris is viciously bonked on the head, and the culprits a ...more
Marc Gerstein
Up yours Robert Redford and whoever produced and directed the movie version of "The Natural," which I completely hated the result being that for decades I've ignored Malamud. Now, I see how wrong it was to judge an author by a single Hollywood mess.

As to "The Assistant," wow!

The blurbs are accurate about the basics: struggling immigrant grocer gets held up and one of the robbers attaches himself to the business as an assistant in order to . . . well, here's where it gets really interesting. It'
...more
Manshui
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud is a novel written about a grocer name Morris Bober with a goal to help himself and his family. He went through being robbed more than once but then, things turned better when Frank Alpine decided to become his assistant. However, tension arisen when Frank is in conflict with Jews, fell in love with Helen Bober, and started stealing from the grocery store. My favorite part in this story is the unique immigrant experience that the author has left behind. It demons ...more
Phillip
This book focuses on the lives of two men, Morris and Frank. Morris owns a grocery store and Frank is a fresh immigrant. Frank steals food from Morris and Morris kicks him out. One day the store was robbed and Morris was knocked unconcious and instead Frank helped run the store. Business improved with Frank's help and Morris decided to hire Frank once he recover. Frank unwillingly steals a tiny portion of Morris's earnings due to emergency issues. Morris catches him and kicks him out. Frank then ...more
Ezra
The cover attracted me to the book the most. I never heard of the author or this novel before but when I heard the story line I had to read it. This novel is about postwar in Brooklyn (similar to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) where a grocery owner Morris Bober goes through many trials in tryng to keep a falling grocery from finally shutting down."He [Morris:] labored long hours, was the soul of honesty - he could not escape his honesty, it was bedrock; to cheat would cause an explosion in him, yet h ...more
Monica
Malamud, who is probably best known for having written "The Natural," manages to throw you headfirst into the sad life of a Brooklyn grocer, Morris Bober, from page one. As a Jewish immigrant who moves to the US for a happier life but ends up with even less, "The Assistant" is a saga set in the characteristically un-pc times of the early 1950's that is perversely heartbreaking yet comedic in the development of its three main characters. Each of these characters' unhappiness is confined to the st ...more
Bunny
La storia è semplice: un povero negoziante ebreo che cerca di tirare avanti, una moglie troppo apprensiva e diffidente, una figlia che lavora e aiuta i genitori a portare avanti la baracca e, infine, un personaggio che diventerà il commesso che dà il titolo al romanzo. Ciò che mi ha colpito è stata la genuinità dei sentimenti, nonostante tutto ciò che questo commesso combina. A lettura ultimata mi è rimasto un velo di tristezza, non so perchè, ma la sensazione è quella di aver letto un libro sem ...more
Vonia
The Assistant, the second novel from a Pulitzer Prize winner, was undeniably a philosophical, meaningful story with use of various themes as well as masterful use of symbolism. A well written, character focused story, yet simple to understand, read, and, most importantly, identify with.

I realize that there was a meaning, a reason, for the extreme use of Jewish sentiment here. But I do have to say that it was too much for me. The many proclamations of the gentile, "Goys", the necessity of marryi
...more
SCARABOOKS
Atmosfera che è una cappa calda di malinconia.
Caratterizzazioni e microambientazione da romanzo mittleuropeo emigrato a New York. Interno bottega sulle soglie del fallimento e dintorni (si esce poco e senza fortuna; ci si allontana di passi, comunque, a parte un viaggetto in tram). Famiglia ebrea: padre sfiancato, moglie spaventata, figlia avventata. Commesso spiantato e tormentato (italiano) al centro della trama.
Trama che è una contro-favola americana. Tante speranze e niente integrazione, ni
...more
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Conor & Liz : Book one: The Assistant by Bernard Malamud 1 3 Apr 26, 2013 01:57PM  
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Bernard Malamud was an author of novels and short stories. Along with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, he was one of the great American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel, The Natural, was adapted into a 1984 film starring Robert Redford. His 1966 novel The Fixer, about antisemitism in Tsarist Russia, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
More about Bernard Malamud...
The Fixer The Natural The Magic Barrel The Complete Stories The Tenants

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“When I don't feel hurt, I hope they bury me.” 5 likes
“But she had recently come to think that in such unhappy times--when the odds were so high against personal happiness--to find love was miraculous, and to fulfill it as best two people could was what really mattered.” 5 likes
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