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Ann Malamud

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Ann DeChiara Malamud, the wife of novelist Bernard Malamud, died Tuesday, March 20, 2007, in Cambridge. She was 89 years old. The immediate cause was kidney failure.

Ann DeChiara, the daughter of Ida Ettari and Albert DeChiara, and the only child of her mother, grew up in an extended family in her grandfather’s home in New Rochelle, N.Y. She majored in Romance languages at Cornell and graduated in 1939. Fluent in Italian and French, she always recalled her junior year abroad in France as one of the great experiences in her life. After college Miss DeChiara worked at the advertising agency Young and Rubicam in Manhattan. She met Bernard Malamud at a party at a mutual friend’s house in 1942, and they were able to marry in 1945 when, in the post war New York City housing shortage, they finally found a small apartment on King Street in Greenwich Village. Neither of their fathers approved of the marriage between the Russian Jewish man and the Italian Catholic woman.

As a young newlywed and writer’s wife to be, one of Mrs. Malamud’s first tasks was to type 100 letters of application for her Phd-less husband to apply to teach at colleges all over the United States. They hoped that if Mr. Malamud could trade in high school teaching for college professing, he might be able to write and still support a family. Mr. Malamud was hired to teach English composition by Oregon State College in Corvallis Oregon, and in 1949 the couple and their toddler son moved west. In 1956 Mr. Malamud received a Partisan Review fellowship that allowed him to take his family to live in Rome for a year. Mrs. Malamud’s family was from Naples, and she had lived there for a year when she was eight, so she was eager to introduce him to her family home. In 1961 they moved back east so that Mr. Malamud, by then the published author of The Natural, The Assistant, and his National Book Award winning book of short stories, The Magic Barrel, could take a professorship at Bennington College in Vermont. Though Vermont became home, the Malamuds spent two years in Cambridge in the mid-1960s, and in 1968 began spending winters in Manhattan, which they continued until Mr. Malamud’s death in 1986.

Once married, Ann worked as a homemaker and a writer’s wife. She typed her husband’s manuscripts, commented to him on the early drafts of his work, and managed family life so that he could focus on his writing. The couple shared a love of literature, art, music, theater, and friendship. Mrs. Malamud enjoyed reading, music, particularly opera, travel, and refinishing furniture. She was a deeply self-effacing person, yet she was a widely read intellectual, who enjoyed nothing better than discussing a book, a political question, or an art exhibit. She remarked once that she was happy to have saved much of Proust until she was 50; at 75 or so, she noted one day, upon closing “The Golden Bowl,” that she had finally finished reading all of Henry James’s novels. She was an excellent cook and a convivial hostess; her frequent dinners for friends were famous for the quality of the food and the conversation.

She is survived by a half brother, Albert DeChiara; a son, Paul of Washington D.C.; a daughter, Janna Smith, and a son-in-law, David, in Milton, Mass.; and two grandsons, Peter and Zachary.

Information provided by the funeral home.
Published in Bennington Banner on Mar. 28, 2007
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