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Encyclopedia > Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer (Yiddish: יצחק באַשעװיס זינגער) Image File history File links Ibsinger. ... Image File history File links Ibsinger. ... Yiddish (Yid. ...

(November 21, 1902(?) – July 24, 1991) was a Nobel Prize-winning Polish born American writer of both short stories and novels. He wrote in Yiddish. November 21 is the 325th day of the year (326th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1902 (MCMII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... July 24 is the 205th day (206th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 160 days remaining. ... 1991 (MCMXCI) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Nobel Prize in Literature medal. ... Yiddish (ייִדיש, Jiddisch) is a Germanic language spoken by about four million Jews throughout the world. ...



Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in 1904 in Leoncin, a small village inhabited mainly by Jews near Warsaw in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, probably on November 21 1902. (This would concur with the date and month he admitted in private to his official biographer Paul Kresh [1] his secretary Dvorah Telushkin [2] and with the historical events he and his brother refer to in their childhood-memoirs. The usual, official date of birth, or July 14, 1904, had been freely decided upon by the author in his early youth, most probably making himself younger to avoid the draft; the family moved to Radzymin, often erroneously cited as birthplace, some years later). His father was a Hasidic rabbi and his mother, Bathsheba, was the daughter of the rabbi of Bilgoraj. Singer later used her name in his penname "Bashevis" (son of Bathsheba). His brother Israel Joshua Singer also was a noted writer. Their elder sister, Esther Kreitman, was also a writer. She was the first in the family to write stories. [3] Warsaw (Polish: , , in full The Capital City of Warsaw, Polish: Miasto StoÅ‚eczne Warszawa) is the capital of Poland, its largest city, and a gamma world city. ... Anthem: God Save the Tsar! Russian Empire in 1914 Capital Saint Petersburg Language(s) Russian Government Monarchy Emperor  - 1721-1725 Peter the Great  - 1894-1917 Nicholas II History  - Established 22 October, 1721  - February Revolution 2 March, 1917 Area  - 1897 22,400,000 km2 8,648,688 sq mi Population  - 1897... July 14 is the 195th day (196th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 170 days remaining. ... Year 1904 (MCMIV) was a leap year starting on a Friday (see link for calendar). ... Coat of Arms of Radzymin Radzymin (pronounce ) is a town in Poland and one of the distant suburbs of the city of Warsaw. ... It has been suggested that Hasidic philosophy be merged into this article or section. ... Rabbi, in Judaism, means teacher, or more literally great one. The word Rabbi is derived from the Hebrew root word רַב, rav, which in biblical Hebrew means great or distinguished (in knowledge). Sephardic and Yemenite Jews pronounce this word רִבִּי ribbÄ«; the modern Israeli pronunciation רַבִּי rabbÄ« is derived from a recent (18th... Biłgoraj is a town in south-eastern Poland with 27,000 inhabitants (2003). ... Israel Joshua Singer photo taken by Carl Van Vechten, 1938 Israel Joshua Singer (November 30, 1893, BiÅ‚goraj, Poland - February 10, 1944 New York) was a Yiddish novelist and the brother of Nobel Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer and novelist Esther Kreitman. ... Hinde Ester Singer Kreytman (1891-1954), known in English as Esther Kreitman, was a Yiddish-language novelist and short story writer. ...

The family moved to the court of the Rabbi of Radzimin in 1907, where his father became head of the Yeshiva. After the Yeshiva-building burned down, the family moved to Krochmalna-Street in the Yiddish-speaking poor Jewish quarter of Warsaw in 1908, where Singer grew up. There his father acted as a rabbi - that is, as judge, arbitrator, religious authority and spiritual leader. [4] Yiddish (Yid. ...

In 1917 the family had to split up because of the hardships of World War I, and Singer moved with his mother and younger brother Moshe to his mother's hometown of Bilgoraj, a traditional Jewish village or shtetl, where his mother's brothers had followed his grandfather as rabbis. [5] When his father became a village-rabbi again in 1921, Singer went back to Warsaw, where he entered the Tachkemoni Rabbinical Seminary, but found out that neither the school nor the profession suited him. He returned to Bilgoraj, where he tried to support himself by giving Hebrew lessons, but soon gave up and joined his parents, considering himself a failure. But in 1923 his older brother Israel Joshua arranged for him to move to Warsaw to work as a proofreader for the Literarische Bleter, of which he was an editor. [6] Biłgoraj is a town in south-eastern Poland with 27,000 inhabitants (2003). ... Hebrew redirects here. ...

Singer's first published story won the literary competition of the "literarishe bletter" and he soon got a name as a promising talent. A reflection of his formative years in "the kitchen of literature" (his own expression) [7] can be found in many of his later works. I. B. Singer's first novel was Satan in Goray which he first published in installements in a literary magazine, "Globus", which he had founded with his life-long friend, the Yiddish poet Aaron Zeitlin in 1935. It tells the story of the events in the village of Goraj (close to Bilgoraj), after the terrible catastrophe of 1648, where the Jews of Poland lost a third of their population in a cruel uprising by cosacks and the effects of the seventeenth century faraway false messiah Shabbatai Zvi on the local population. Its last chapter is written in the style imitative of medieval Yiddish chronicle. The people in this novel, as elsewhere with Singer, are often at the mercy of the capricious infliction of circumstance, but even more their own passions, manias, superstitions and fanatical dreams. In its stark depiction of innocence crushed by circumstance it appears like a foreboding of the coming danger. In his later work The Slave (1962) Singer returned to the aftermath of 1648 again, in a love story of a Jewish man and a Gentile woman, where he shows the traumatized and desperate survivors of a historic catastrophe with even deeper understanding. Sabbatai Zevi, also transliterated Shabbethai, Shabbetai, Sabbetai, or Shabtai; Zvi or Tzvi (July 23, 1626–possibly September 30, 1676) was a famous claimed Messiah and Kabbalist. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...

To flee from approaching Fascism, Singer emigrated, once again with the help of his brother, to the U.S. in 1935. In doing that he separated from his first wife Rachel, and son Israel, who went to Moscow and later Palestine. Singer settled in New York, where he started writing as a journalist and columnist for The Forward (Yiddish: פֿאָרװערטס), a Yiddish-language newspaper. After a promising beginning he became despondent and for some years felt "Lost in America" (title of a Singer-novel, in Yiddish from 1974 onward, in English 1981). But in 1938 he met Alma Wassermann, born Haimann, a German-Jewish refugee from Munich, whom he married in 1940. With her at his side he became a prolific writer again and, in due course, a valued contributor to the "Forward" with so many articles that he used, besides "Bashevis", the pennames "Varshavsky" and "D.Segal". [8] Motto: (Out Of Many, One) (traditional) In God We Trust (1956 to date) Anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner Capital Washington D.C. Largest city New York City None at federal level (English de facto) Government Federal constitutional republic  - President George Walker Bush (R)  - Vice President Dick Cheney (R) Independence from... Nickname: Big Apple, Gotham, NYC Location in the state of New York Coordinates: Country United States State New York Boroughs The Bronx Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten Island Settled 1613  - Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) Area    - City 1,214. ... The Forward is a Jewish-American newspaper published in New York. ... Yiddish (Yid. ...

Isaac Bashevis Singer, as it appears from a much larger mural painting in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Isaac Bashevis Singer, as it appears from a much larger mural painting in Flagstaff, Arizona.

However, he became an actual literary contributor to the "Forward" only after his brother's death in 1945, when he published "The Family Moskat", which he wrote in honor of his older brother. But his own style showed in the daring turns of his action and characters - with (and this in the Jewish family-newspaper in 1945) double adultery in the holiest of nights of Judaism, the evening of Yom Kippur. He was almost forced to stop the novel by the legendary editor in chief, Abe Cahan, but was saved through his readers, who wanted the story to go on. After this his stories - which he had published in Yiddish literary newspapers before - were printed in the "Forward" too. Throughout the 1940s, Singer's reputation began to grow. After World War II and the near destruction of the Yiddish-speaking peoples, Yiddish seemed a dead language. Though Singer had moved to the United States, he believed in the power of his native language and was convinced that there was still a large audience that longed to read in Yiddish. In an interview in Encounter (Feb 1979) he claimed that although the Jews of Poland had died "something - call it spirit or whatever - is still somewhere in the universe. This is a mystical kind of feeling, but I feel there is truth in it." Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (847x1024, 845 KB) [edit] Summary The image was personally taken by me in July 2006. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (847x1024, 845 KB) [edit] Summary The image was personally taken by me in July 2006. ... Nickname: City of Seven Wonders Location in Coconino County the state of Arizona Coordinates: Country United States State Arizona County Coconino County Mayor Joseph C. Donaldson Area    - City 63. ... Official language(s) English Capital Phoenix Largest city Phoenix Area  Ranked 6th  - Total 113,998 sq mi (295,254 km²)  - Width 310 miles (500 km)  - Length 400 miles (645 km)  - % water 0. ... Combatants Allied Powers Axis Powers Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000,000 Total dead: 50,000,000 Military dead: 8,000,000 Civilian dead: 4,000,000 Total dead 12,000,000 World War II (abbreviated WWII), or the Second World War, was a worldwide conflict...

Some say that Singer's work is indebted to the great writers of Yiddish tradition such as Sholom Aleichem, and he himself considered his older brother his greatest artistic example. But actually he was more influenced by Knut Hamsun, whom he read (and translated) in his youth, and whose subjective approach he transferred to his own world, which, contrary to Hamsuns, was not only shaped by the ego of its characters, but by the moral commitments of the Jewish traditions he grew up with and which his father embodies in the stories about his youth. This led to the dichotomy between the life his heroes led and the life they feel they should lead - which gives his art a modernity his precedessors do not have. His themes of witchcraft, mystery and legend draw on traditional sources, but they are contrasted with a modern and ironic consciousness. They are also concerned with the bizarre and the grotesque. Sholom Aleichem listens Sholom Aleichem This article is about the writer. ... Knut Hamsun (31 years old) in 1890 Knut Hamsun (August 4, 1859 – February 19, 1952) was a leading Norwegian author and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1920. ...

Singer always wrote and published in Yiddish (almost all of it in newspapers) and then edited his novels and stories for the American version, which became the base for all the other translations (he talked of his "second original"). This has led to an ongoing controversy where the "real Singer" can be found - in the Yiddish original, with its finely tuned language, and, sometimes, rambling construction, or in the tightly edited American version, where the language is usually simpler and more direct. Many stories and novels of I. B. Singer have not been translated yet.

Singer published at least 18 novels, 14 children's books, a number of memoirs, essays and articles, but he is best known as a writer of short-stories which have appeared in over a dozen collections. The first collection of Singer's short-stories in English Gimpel, the Fool, was published in 1957. The title story was translated by Saul Bellow and published in May 1953 in Partisan Review. Selections from Singer's "Varshavsky-stories" in the Daily Forward were later published in anthologies as My Father's Court (1966). Later collections include A Crown of Feathers (1973), with notable masterpieces in between, such as, The Spinoza of Market Street (1961), or, A Friend of Kafka (1970). The world of his stories is the world and life of East European Jewry, such as it was lived in cities and villages, in poverty and persecution, and imbued with sincere piety and rites combined with blind faith and superstition. And, after his many years in America, the world of the immigrants and the way they pursue the American dream, elusive both when they obtain it, as Salomon Margolin, the successful doctor of "A Wedding in Brownsville" (in "Short Friday"), who finds out his true love was killed by the Nazis, or when it escapes them as it does the "Cabalist of East Broadway" (in "A Crown of Feathers"), who prefers the misery of the Lower East Side to an honored and secure life as a married man. It appears to include everything - pleasure and suffering, coarseness and subtlety. We find obstrusive carnality, spicy, colourful, fragrant or smelly, lewd or violent. But there is also room for sagacity, worldly wisdom and humor. Bellow as depicted in his Nobel diploma. ...

One of Singer's most prominent themes is the clash between the old and the modern world, tradition and renewal, faith and free thought. Among many other themes, it is dealt with in Singer's big family chronicles - the novels, The Family Moskat (1950), The Manor (1967), and The Estate (1969). These extensive epic works have been compared with Thomas Mann's novel, Buddenbrooks (who's Zauberberg (Magic Mountain) he had translated into Yiddish as a young writer). Like Mann, Singer describes how old families are broken up by the new age and its demands, from the middle of the nineteenth century up to the Second World War, and how they are split, financially, socially and humanly. For other persons named Thomas Mann, see Thomas Mann (disambiguation). ...

One of his most famous novels (due to a popular movie remake) was Enemies, a Love Story in which a Holocaust survivor deals with his own desires, complex family relationships, and the loss of faith. Singer's feminist story, Yentl has had a wide impact on culture since being made into a popular movie starring Barbra Streisand. Perhaps the most fascinating Singer-inspired film is 1974's "Mr. Singer’s Nightmare or Mrs. Pupkos Beard" by Bruce Davidson, a renowned photographer who became Singer's neighbor. This unique film is a half-hour mixture of documentary and fantasy for which Singer not only wrote the script but played the leading part. Concentration camp inmates during the Holocaust The Holocaust was Nazi Germanys systematic genocide (ethnic cleansing) of various ethnic, religious, national, and secular groups during World War II. Early elements include the Kristallnacht pogrom and the T-4 Euthanasia Program established by Hitler that killed some 200,000 people. ... Barbra Streisand (born April 24, 1942 as Barbara Joan Streisand), is an Academy Award-winning American singer, theatre and film actress, composer, liberal political activist, film producer and director. ... Bruce Davidson is an American equestrian who competes in the sport of eventing. ...

Throughout the 1960s Singer continued to write on questions of personal morality, and was the target of scathing criticism from many quarters during this time, some of it for not being "moral" enough, some because was derided for writing stories that no one wanted to hear. To this he replied, "Literature must spring from the past, from the love of the uniform force that wrote it, and not from the uncertainty of the future." [citation needed]

Singer's own relationship with religion was complex. He regarded himself as a skeptic and a loner, though he still felt connected to his Orthodox roots, and ultimately developed his own brand of religion and philosophy which he called a "private mysticism: Since God was completely unknown and eternally silent, He could be endowed with whatever traits one elected to hang upon Him."

After being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1978, Singer gained a monumental status among writers throughout the world, and his reputation with non-Jewish audiences is now higher than that of any other Yiddish writer.

Singer died on July 24, 1991 in Miami, Florida, after suffering a series of strokes. July 24 is the 205th day (206th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 160 days remaining. ... 1991 (MCMXCI) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Miami redirects here. ... A stroke, also known as cerebrovascular accident (CVA),[1] is an acute neurological injury in which the blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted. ...


Singer constantly shocked his Yiddish contemporaries by publishing stories with pungent perversions of the human mind as the central theme. He has written on homosexuality between yeshiva boys, transvestite Hasids, and corrupted Rabbis lured by Lilith and Satan. Yiddish (ייִדיש, Jiddisch) is a Germanic language spoken by about four million Jews throughout the world. ... Yeshiva or yeshivah (IPA: ) (Hebrew: ישיבה pl. ... Hasidic Judaism (Hebrew: Chasidut חסידות) is a Haredi Jewish religious movement. ... A Rabbi (Classical Hebrew רִבִּי ribbī; modern Ashkenazi and Israeli רַבִּי rabbī) is a religious Jewish scholar who is an expert in Jewish law. ... Lilith (1892), by John Collier Lilith is a female Mesopotamian night demon or vampire associated with wind and thought to harm children. ... For other uses, see Satan (disambiguation). ...

In his personal memoirs interspersed between his collected stories, he portrays himself unflatteringly as the self-centered young (or old) artist which he most probably was, yet with a keen eye for the sufferings and tribulations of others - which, in the opinions of many, makes him a great writer.


Singer was a prominent vegetarian for the last 35 years of his life and often included such themes in his works. In his short story, The Slaughterer, he described the anguish that an appointed slaughterer had trying to reconcile his compassion for animals with his job of slaughtering them. He felt that the eating of meat was a denial of all ideals and all religions: "How can we speak of right and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood". When asked if he had become a vegetarian for health reasons, he replied: "I did it for the health of the chickens." For animals adapted to eat primarily plants, sometimes referred to as vegetarian animals, see Herbivore. ...

In The Letter Writer, he wrote "In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka" [1].

In the preface to Steven Rosen's "Food for Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions" (1986), Singer wrote, "When a human kills an animal for food, he is neglecting his own hunger for justice. Man prays for mercy, but is unwilling to extend it to others. Why should man then expect mercy from God? It's unfair to expect something that you are not willing to give. It is inconsistent. I can never accept inconsistency or injustice. Even if it comes from God. If there would come a voice from God saying, "I'm against vegetarianism!" I would say, "Well, I am for it!" This is how strongly I feel in this regard."


  1. Paul Kresh, "Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Magician of West 86th Street, A Biography", The Dial Press, New York 1979, p. 390.
  2. Dvorah Telushkin "Master of Dreams", A Memoir of Isaac Bashevis Singer", New York 1997, p. 266.
  3. Maurice Carr, "My Uncle Itzhak: A Memoir of I. B. Singer", In: Commentary, December 1992.
  4. Isaac Bashevis Singer, In my Father's Court, New York: Fawcett Crest, 1966.
  5. See 4.
  6. Isaac Bashevis Singer, A Little Boy in Search of God, New York: Doubleday, 1976.
  7. Telushkin, p. 132.
  8. See: Both Bibliographies (mentioned below)

List of works

Note: the publication years in the following list refer to English translations, not the Yiddish originals (which often predate their translations by ten or twenty years).

  • The Family Moskat (1950)
  • Satan in Goray (1955)
  • The Magician of Lublin (1960)
  • The Slave (1962)
  • The Fearsome Inn (1967)
  • Mazel and Shlimazel (1967)
  • The Manor (1967)
  • The Estate (1969)
  • The Golem (1969)
  • A Friend of Kafka, and Other Stories (1970)
  • Elijah The Slave (1970)
  • Joseph and Koza: or the Sacrifice to the Vistula (1970)
  • The Topsy-Turvy Emperor of China (1971)
  • Enemies, a Love Story (1972)
  • The Wicked City (1972)
  • The Hasidim (1973)
  • Fools of Chelm (1975)
  • Naftali and the Storyteller and His Horse, Sus (1976)
  • A Little Boy in Search of God (1976)
  • Shosha (1978)
  • A Young Man in Search of Love (1978)
  • The Penitent (1983)
  • Yentl the Yeshiva Boy (1983) (basis for the movie Yentl)
  • Why Noah Chose the Dove (1984)
  • The King of the Fields (1988)
  • Scum (1991)
  • The Certificate (1992)
  • Meshugah (1994)
  • Shadows on the Hudson (1997)

see also: The Golem is a novel written by Gustav Meyrink in 1914. ... Spoilers: Enemies, a Love Story is set in post-World War II New York City. ... Barbara Streisand on the soundtrack cover for the movie Yentl. ... The Certificate book cover The Certificate is a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, published in English in 1992 (probably published in Yiddish some ten to twenty years earlier). ... This is a list of English language words of Yiddish language origin, many of which have entered the language by way of American English or Cockney. ... Shadows on the Hudson is a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer. ...

see books: Bibliographies: Rencontre au Sommet is an 86-page book containing the complete transcripts of conversations between Anthony Burgess and Isaac Bashevis Singer when they met for a Swedish television documentary in 1985. ... Anthony Burgess (February 25, 1917 – November 22, 1993) was a British novelist, critic and composer. ...

  • David Neal Miller: Bibliography of Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1924-1949, New York, Bern, Frankfurt/M., Nancy, 1984.
  • Roberta Saltzman: Isaac Bashevis Singer, A Bibliography of His Works in Yiddisch and English, 1960-1991, Lanham, Maryland, and London, 2002.

Secondary Literature

  • Paul Kresh "Isaac Bashevis Singer: The Magician of West 86th Street", New York 1979
  • Maurice Carr, "My Uncle Itzhak: A Memoir of I. B. Singer", In: Commentary, December 1992
  • Aleksandra Ziółkowska "Korzenie są polskie", Warszawa 1992, ISBN 83-7066-406-7;
  • Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm "The Roots Are Polish", Toronto 2004, ISBN 0-920517-05-6.
  • Israel Zamir "Journey to My Father Isaac Bashevis Singer", New York 1995
  • Lester Goran "The Bright Streets of Surfside. The Memoir of a Friendship with Isaac Bashevis Singer", Kent, Ohio 1994
  • Janet Hadda "Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life", New York 1997
  • Dvorah Telushkin "Master of Dreams", A Memoir of Isaac Bashevis Singer", New York 1997
  • Agata Tuszynska "Lost Landscapes", In Search of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Jews of Poland, Transl. by M. G. Levine, New York 1998
  • "The Hidden Isaac Bashevis Singer", edited by Seth Wolitz, University of Texas Press, 2002
  • Stephen Tree "Isaac Bashevis Singer", Munich 2004 (in German)

Aleksandra Ziółkowska also known as Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, and Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm) is a recognized Polish author who has penned no fewer than twenty-two books in her native language, and a few were translated into English. ...

See also

This is a partial list of short story authors: Lee K. Abbott (born 1947) Chinua Achebe (born 1930) Sherman Alexie (born 1966) Martin Amis (born 1949) Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Isaac Babel (1894-1940) Andrea Barrett (born 1964) John Barth (born 1930) Donald Barthelme (1931-1989...

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Isaac Bashevis Singer
  • 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Nobel biography
  • Review of Singer's Collected Stories
  • What Yiddish Says article from The Weekly Standard
  • An American exile article from The Jerusalem Post
  • http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/ibsinger.htm
  • http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/singer_i.html
  • http://www.wbur.org/arts/2005/48687_20050101.asp
  • http://www.singer100.org/
  • Isaac Singer's Gravesite
NAME Singer, Isaac Bashevis
DATE OF BIRTH November 21, 1902
PLACE OF BIRTH Leoncin, Poland
DATE OF DEATH Miami, Florida, USA
PLACE OF DEATH July 24, 1991

  Results from FactBites:
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1546 words)
Isaac Bashevis Singer was born Icek-Hersz Zynger in the town of Radzymin, near Warsaw, Poland.
Singer's father appear them as a pious man who is happiest studying the Talmud; his mother is practical and wishes her husband would pay more attention to money and everyday problems.
Singer's novels have realistic social and natural settings; Singer pays much attention to the plot and characters, especially their sexual passions, but on the other hand he deals with spiritual truths and magic beyond everyday life, which separate his stories from traditional realism.
Isaac Bashevis Singer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2395 words)
Isaac Bashevis Singer was born Icek-Hersz Zynger in Leoncin, a small village inhabited mainly by Jews near Warsaw in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, probably on November 21 1902.
Singer published at least 18 novels, 14 children's books, a number of memoirs, essays and articles, but he is best known as a writer of short-stories which have appeared in over a dozen collections.
Singer was a prominent vegetarian for the last 35 years of his life and often included such themes in his works.
  More results at FactBites »



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