Idiots First

Malamud, Bernard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Jan-28-1997
  • Last revised: Aug-29-2006


This is a story of parental love and sacrifice and of survival in a hostile world. Mendel, a poor widower who has raised a retarded son, has fought life for years. Now he is fighting death (personified as a burley bearded man named Ginzburg). Mendel’s last task is to assure safe train passage for his son, Isaac, to the boy’s eighty-three-year-old uncle in California. This Mendel accomplishes after scraping enough money together and after winning a final heroic battle with Ginzburg.


There is an Academy Award-winning documentary film, Best Boy by Ira Wohl, that features the struggles of the parents of a 52-year-old retarded man, Philly. The film covers a three-year period during which Philly moves from his parents’ home to a group home. (See annotation).

Primary Source

Idiots First


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York



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