Bernard Malamud was born in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant parents. His father, like Morris Bober in The Assistant, was a small grocer, and the family moved around Brooklyn as business dictated. When Malamud was nine years old, he had pneumonia and began a period of intensive reading. Later, encouraged by his teachers, he also began writing short stories.
From 1932 to 1936, Malamud was a student at the City College of New York. He later began work on a master of arts degree at Columbia University, and, while teaching night school at Erasmus Hall, his own alma mater, he started writing in earnest. He married Ann de Chiara in 1945, and four years later he and his family moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where for twelve years Malamud taught English at Oregon State. A son was born before they left for Corvallis, a daughter after they arrived. While there, he published his first three books; after leaving, he wrote his satire of academic life in an English department, A New Life. Returning to the East in 1961, Malamud taught for many years at Bennington College in Vermont. He died in New York on March 18, 1986.