As with the quandary between the Shakespeare play and the baby, I think Dad struggled mightily with this dilemma of ruthlessness. How much should you allow yourself to pain, or harm, or simply not take care of the people around you in the service of art-making? Jude’s cry to Arabella, “have a little pity on the creature,” could have been my father’s central moral tenet.
Characteristically, the one time I met Malamud (in New Haven, circa 1980) I asked him about the pronunciation of his name: did the family say me-LAH-med, as in Yiddish? He laughed and said it had doubtless been that way in the old country, but in America the family said MA-lamud. I nodded, satisfied. I suppose I could have asked about the morality of the artist, but then I’d be Moralhat, wouldn’t I? And he wouldn’t have been able to give as satisfying an answer. (Link via the invaluable wood s lot.)
I note, by the way, that Russians say ma-LAH-mud, which parallels their a-ZI-mov for Isaac Asimov and BER-lin for Irving Berlin. Interesting what gets localized and what doesn’t.