“A truly great novel is a story to the simple, a parable to the wise, a direct revelation of reality to the person who has made it part of his or her being.”

“The novel is a work of fiction in which the imagination and the intellect combine to express life in the form of a story; the imagination is always directed and controlled by the intellect. It is interested chiefly, not in romance and adventure, but in men and women as they are; it aims to show the motives and influences which govern human life, and the effects of personal choice upon character and destiny. Such is the true novel; and, as such, it opens a wider and more interesting field than any other type of literature.”

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“The novel is the extended story of a group of individualized characters who are made to come alive in a normal background, and whose personalities interact on one another toward a specific outcome. The ultimate test of a true novel is its character drawing. In a good novel the incidents must be not only possible but probable; in a great novel, they must be inevitable.”

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From “The Writer’s Task,” An Address by Bernard Malamud, author, March 1959:

“It seems to me that the writer’s most important task, no matter what the current theory of man, or his prevailing mood, is to recapture his image as human being as each of us in his secret heart knows it to be, and as history and literature have from the beginning revealed it. At the same time, the writer must imagine a better world for men while he shows us, in all its ugliness and beauty, the possibilities of this. In re-creating the humanity of man, in reality his greatness, he will, among other things, hold up the mirror to the mystery of him, in which poetry and possibility live, though he has endlessly betrayed them. In a sense, the writer in his art, without directly stating it–though he may preach, his work must not–must remind man that he has, in his human striving, invented nothing less than freedom; and if he will devoutly remember this, he will understand the best way to preserve it, and his own highest value.”


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