Farrar Straus Giroux, Paperback, 9780374521028, 230pp.
Publication Date: September 18, 2003
With a new introduction by Aleksandar Hemon
In "The Tenants" (1971), Bernard Malamud brought his unerring sense of modern urban life to bear on the conflict between blacks and Jews then inflaming his native Brooklyn. The sole tenant in a rundown tenement, Henry Lesser is struggling to finish a novel, but his solitary pursuit of the sublime grows complicated when Willie Spearmint, a black writer ambivalent toward Jews, moves into the building. Henry and Willie are artistic rivals and unwilling neighbors, and their uneasy peace is disturbed by the presence of Willie's white girlfriend Irene and the landlord Levenspiel's attempts to evict both men and demolish the building. This novel's conflict, current then, is perennial now; it reveals the slippery nature of the human condition, and the human capacity for violence and undoing.
"Malamud ... gentles his material with humor, with that redemptive conscience, and above all with a compassion which extends all of his works beyond the mapped margins of existence, however destitute."--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) "Malamud's best book in years."--The New York Times