Janet Malcolm, an influential journalist who changed her last name after fleeing the Nazis during World War II, died on Wednesday at the age of 86. The cause of her death was lung cancer, according to her daughter Anne, who spoke to the New York Times.
Malcolm, who wrote for The New Yorker since the 1960s and published several collections of essays and nonfiction, was known for her incisive interviews and innovative New Journalism style. She also has an acclaimed book “The Journalist and the Murderer,” which examined journalism ethics through the lens of a high-profile murder case,
Malcolm was known for uniquely handling reporting, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism to dissect her subjects forensically. Her career was centered on what she referred to as journalism’s “moral problem” and “The invented I of journalism.” The famous opening line of Journalist and the murderer was: “Every journalist who is not stupid or full of himself notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible.”
Malcolm was born in Prague in 1934 as Jana Wienerová. She emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1939 with her family and resided in Flatbush, Brooklyn, before moving to Yorkville in Manhattan. Malcolm attended the High School of Music and Art and the University of Michigan.
As per The Paris Review, “it was there where she began writing for the school paper, The Michigan Daily, and the humor magazine, The Gargoyle, which she later edited.” Malcolm married twice. Her first husband, Donald Malcolm, was a fellow New Yorker contributor, and the pair lived in Washington, D.C., and then returned to New York. Their daughter, Anne, was born in 1963. After separating from Donald, Janet Malcolm married her New Yorker editor, Gardner Botsford, in 1975. He died in 2004 at age 87. Malcolm was survived by her daughter and her sister, journalist Marie Winn.
Malcolm has been a recipient of The Pulitzer Prize, which is the biggest award and honor in the filed of journalism. Additionally, she won a U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award for Forty One False Starts, a remarkable essay comprised of 41 different opening paragraphs.
Following the news of her death, many of her coworkers expressed their condolences. New Yorker contributors shared their feelings about the late writer, as did fans and writers elsewhere. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called her “magic on earth.”