Deal Me In – Week 29
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“I felt like a child, or worse, often like a moron. I am left with myself unexpressed. What I knew, indeed, what I am, becomes to me a burden. My tongue hangs useless.”
Sometimes, a sad story well-told is a beautiful thing. Bernard Malamud’s “The German Refugee” is a prime example. I read it this week when I selected the Six of Hearts for my Deal Me In 2015 Short Story Project. My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seenhere. Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
(picture of Bernard Malamud obtained from goodreads.com)
The narrator is a young college tutor who privately teaches English and speech during the late 1930’s in New York City. Many of his students are prominent Jewish men who have escaped Nazi Germany. His current student, Oskar Gassner, becomes more of a friend to the narrator than just a student. The amazing aspect of this story is how Malamud lets the sadness of Gassner’s situation come through loud and clear in relatively minor details such as the anguish of attempting to talk without an accent when giving lectures – the way Gassner made a living in Germany. The reader gets inside the mind of a man in his mid-fifties who must completely start over in another country because his government wants to kill him and understands the conflict within Gassner’s mind between “I must try to make a go of this” and “why bother”.
There are many great stories that tell various aspects of the Jewish plight in Europe during World War II. I found “The German Refugee” to be one of the best. It is included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike.